Let’s be frank: healthcare providers (HCPs) are tough to reach. They are impatient with irrelevant messages and skeptical about pharma and life sciences marketing. Yet they are eager to keep up with useful news and scientific developments. That’s why HCPs increasingly are found in social “walled gardens,” private online gated platforms that deliver news, professional education and peer-to-peer interaction.
Walled gardens offer a premium opportunity for pharma and life sciences marketers to identify, target, engage and convert HCPs. Yet successful walled garden social strategies require careful content planning and ongoing cultivation. Marketers must be fully informed about what content and interactions will be effective in the climate of a specific walled garden. That can be challenging, given that these are gated communities. In our work, we have developed direct relationships with walled gardens, and our chief medical officer, Dr. Umar Siddiqui, participates in them. From this unique vantage point, we offer these insights and best practices for how pharma marketers may grow relationships with HCPs inside walled gardens.
Content and features
Unlike public social platforms, brands can’t simply buy ads on walled garden platforms. Instead, each platform curates, vets and approves content and interaction. HCPs generate much of the content. The resulting feeds vary by the gardens’ specialties and vary greatly in tone, content and interaction frequency. Each platform has unique features, such as drug ratings, polls, focus groups, or job boards. Some of these can be entry points for pharma messaging. However, HCPs don’t visit walled gardens to see ads or overt commercial messaging, so content must be substantive to be credible.
Use and engagement patterns
Many HCPs engage in peer-to-peer conversations about medical matters, trusting the seclusion of walled gardens to protect those interactions. That said, HCPs rarely visit platforms every day. Some gardens offer robust interactive experiences; others do so less frequently or are less intense. Given the intermittent platform use by HCPs, campaigns should run for 60 to 90 days.
Competition is intense among the platforms for HCP participants. While wanting to remain guarded spaces that cater first to HCPs, the gardens also compete for ad dollars. This competition prompts copycat functionality among the platforms and regular content upgrades. Most offer an array of ad units and packages that require dollar and time commitments. Here are some high-quality platforms to consider:
Up and coming platforms
- ReachMD is a healthcare communications and education network dedicated to helping busy healthcare professionals stay abreast of clinical research, treatment advances, expert opinions and patient care strategies. The integrated network leverages peer-to-peer dialogues among medical experts to educate and inform HCPs across a wide spectrum of topics.
- QxMD was founded by medical professionals and creates high-quality point of care tools in co-operation with expert physicians from their respective fields. QxMD builds apps for web, iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows that enable calculations, journal access and continuing education.
- Healio enables HCPs in 27 specialties to select and tailor news and education to fit their daily practice of medicine. Designed as an in-depth specialty clinical information website, Healio features news reporting, dynamic podcasts, question-and-answer columns, CME and other educational activities in a variety of formats.
Purely commercial messaging will be as welcome in a walled garden as poison ivy is in a rose bed. Here are some recommendations for how to get started with the content that we have found effective for engaging HCPs in walled gardens:
- Experiment with science or data-centric ads.
- Test a poll or survey against a potential target HCP population.
- Post a key opinion leader (KOL) video and gauge the viewership and reaction to it.
- Encourage a KOL or medical science liaison to participate in an ongoing thread.
- Offer a clinical test data set or a case study to spark a conversation.
Walled gardens will continue to capture the time of busy HCPs eager to improve outcomes. LiveWorld has direct relationships with walled gardens. By regularly monitoring and interacting with these platforms, we help pharma and life science clients identify and target discrete HCP populations, craft highly effective campaign strategies and produce powerful messages designed to take root in walled gardens.