To be an influencer or not to be. I don’t think those words ever popped into your head while you were preparing for your medical career. Is that even a fair statement? With the youngest residents exiting residency in their late twenties or early thirties, they are likely in touch with social media trends. This means that for most of their young adult life, smartphones have been attached to their hands. They’ve been sharing moments with their friends and followers for as long as they can remember. Jump over to the trend of businesses and brands partnering with influential social accounts, and you have influencer marketing. But the questions lie, should the two worlds merge? Should doctors become influencers? Can they?
Influencers represent all kinds of industries from beauty, wellness, travel, cooking, Moms, photographers, and educators. You could think of a subject, and I’m sure an influencer for it exists. I think if you ask a group of children what they want to be when they grow up, at least one would answer a social media influencer or a YouTuber. I also think that it’s pretty fair to say that the influencer market is saturated unless you have mastered your niche. There have been some notable doctors that have broken onto the social media influencer scene and have seen great success. Influencers can be split into two groups by size: Influencers and Micro-influencers, each come with their benefits. I think a closer look could help with getting answers to the questions mentioned above.
The influencer category is reserved for those with a more substantial following. Typically an influencer has over 100,000 to 7 million followers. The larger side of the scale from 1 million to 7 million can be subcategorized as mega influencers. These titles are reserved for those who have left a significant imprint in the minds of their followers. The personalities behind these accounts are said to have a substantial reach but have less community engagement with their content. This effect can be attributed to the feeling that their followers cannot interact in two-way communication with them directly. If you were looking to expand your brand as a physician and eventually release related products or cross into entertainment, this could be a route for you.
An example is Dr. Sandra Lee, an American dermatologist that launched her social channels under the handle @dr.pimplepopper. Dr. Lee leveraged her Youtube channel and 3.8 million Instagram followers into a cable TV show on TLC. She is now a household name. Another successful influencer is @doctor.mike, who, to the medical world, is family medicine Dr. Mike Varshavski. Dr. Varshavski started by promoting products related to fitness and health like the Nike Run App but has recently leveraged his 3.6 million followers to position himself as a leading medical expert. He has been recently interviewed on CNN about the COVID-19 pandemic. Another notable doctor influencer is @dr.evananti. Dr. Evan Antin is a Los Angeles based veterinarian who has used his following as a base to launch a pet care product line. These are three examples of very successful doctor influencers who have used social media to build ancillary careers to their medical practices.
On the smaller side, micro-influencers have 5,000 to 100,000 followers. This subgroup can be said to have less reach but engage significantly with their community. At this stage, the outreach, requests, and engagement are still manageable and create real authentic connections with people on the other end of the devices. Being an influencer of this size has its benefits, like driving traffic to your business website or getting paid to sponsor ads for products that align with your brand. This stage can be very impactful as a physician because you can also use the platform to educate those that need healthcare information. People without access to healthcare still need to learn about symptoms they could be having to common ailments. Sharing this type of content can help people become comfortable with topics that they would usually not speak about. Dr. Jennifer Gunter @drjengunter is an OB/GYN that talks about female reproductive health and has positioned herself as an expert in media.
If you haven’t thought of living the life of an influencer, now might be the time to dream of the possibilities. If you’ve already started your social media journey, take a look at my last blog: Auditing A Doctor: Social Media Audits.