Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) and KOLs overlap, but each group is unique. Unlike traditional KOLs, DOLs have a different reach and a unique voice because they know how to effectively use multiple mediums to either create their own content or share, thus establishing their presence within a growing digital ecosystem. For DOLs, there is often no peer review committee and no delay in disseminating content. They are early to communicate new information and lead conversations online and can serve as a trusted voice amongst their peers – especially for those HCPs who are unable to attend congresses or review vast amounts of scientific literature regularly. DOLs can cut through the noise and provide quick updates on the latest developments in the field. While some KOLs aren’t yet fully embracing such digital actions, we see more and more willing to adapt to become ‘DOLs’ to maintain their influence and expertise.
When engaging DOLs, the first step is discovery. Identifying the most influential DOLs requires a different approach compared to traditional KOLs. Identification of DOLs involves many different facets including utilising algorithms to organically find them within social networks. However, given the increasing number of digital channels through which a DOL can communicate to their audience and the nuances of each channel, it’s important to accurately analyse the reach, impact, and relevance, of each channel in the context of your strategic objectives. This allows an objective ranking of each channel as a contributor to overall DOL identification.
Once identified, the second important step involves surveying or engaging them in direct conversations to learn more about the content they share from their perspective, the peer following they seek, the channels they most prefer for different types of communications, their off-line connections, collaborations with other DOLs, and their willingness to collaborate with pharma.
Only when these two steps are completed can you build an accurate picture of the most important DOLs relevant to your strategic needs, and the best way to engage them going forwards. Collaborative and cooperative scientific exchange still forms the hallmark of positive KOL interactions, and DOLs are no different in many respects.
Due to their reach and influence, starting an early dialogue with these digital influencers can lead to fruitful, long-term partnerships and help to ensure that they are disseminating information that is factual and credible. It can also contribute to RWE by having the ability to engage with more HCPs to conduct research or collect data. With DOLs rapidly becoming gaining importance as a new type of opinion leader, it makes sense to identify and engage them early to harness their knowledge and skills.
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