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Role of Patient Influencers

Role of Patient Influencers: How Do Patients Truly Share Information?

Patient Influencer marketing drives earned media, and most of it is done behind the scenes

Want to know more about the role of Patient Influencers and how patients really share information online? 

So did we. We conducted a two-part Behavioral Intent Study and this is Part II: Role of Patient Influencers: How do patients truly share information?”, which digs deeper into the topic.

Earned media, known as the most trusted source of information for consumers, can be a game changer for digital marketers. For years, Nielsen studies have revealed that the most credible information comes from those we know and trust. In 2015 Nielsen’s study revealed that:

83% of respondents trust recommendations from people I know and 66% trust consumer opinions posted online   

Earned and owned are most trusted media formats – source

This means marketers have a huge opportunity to accelerate earned media for their brands through influencer marketing.

Patient Influencers, or Patient Leaders as they are sometimes referred to, are engaging online everyday with their followers. They are educating their online patient communities about treatment options and providing support to their followers as they navigate their illness. When Patient Influencers see something they think will resonate with or help their community members, they are very likely to share it and/or engage with the valuable content.

“If a leader of our community or group likes and shares or comments on a certain Facebook post that does lead us to get involved in it to also share and check out the page or follow the page.  Any kind of information is helpful so we definitely look into every aspect of everything and Facebook is a big help.” 

– Tracy, MS Patient Influencer

In Part II of a two-part Behavioral Intent Study, where we surveyed 433 online community members across seven different therapeutic areas, the WEGO Health team wanted to understand:

  • How influential are online communities when it comes to impacting health decisions?
  • In what ways do patients share information?

When we looked at the ways patients share information, we were a bit surprised by the results.

We found that the majority of earned media impressions are taking place behind the scenes. In fact, 75% of respondents reported that they share information privately. Furthermore, we discovered that the bulk of this private sharing is done through Facebook Messenger, private groups, email, and offline communications.

This Part II report, “Role of Patient Influencers: How do patients truly share information?,” also confirmed that Facebook is the top platform for the sharing of health information:

  • 87% of study participants say they share health information via Facebook posts
  • 81% of study participants say they share health information via Facebook messages

“Facebook is more user friendly in terms of having no character limits and also has[sic] some privacy features in groups.  You can join secret groups and closed groups where nobody knows you’re a part of them, so it gives a little more flexibility and more lengthy conversations.”

– Jodi, MS Patient Influencer

We also found that sharing across various communication channels differs depending on the condition and online community. Our full study report reveals the details of where sharing is taking place both privately and publicly, by channel and by condition.

The sharing that takes place within these online communities is true earned media and something digital marketers can benefit from by tapping into Patient Influencer networks.

How will you use Patient Influencer marketing to increase your awareness among online patient communities?

For your copy of Behavioral Intent Study Part II: Role of Patient Influencers: How do patients truly share information?, download the report here.

This study is Part II in a two-part series of our Behavioral Intent Study. If you missed our release of Part I – Role of Patient Influencers: Do online patient communities drive doctor conversations? – you can download it here.


Laurel has been in the digital and social media space for over 15 years, and she specializes in forming sincere and productive relationships. Every day at WEGO Health, she works to create collaborative connections between patient community leaders and healthcare businesses while continuing WEGO Health’s growth as a caring and informative company. Laurel spends her free time as an avid runner, boater, cook and mom to her twins.


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