Building a Pharmacist Brand on Social Media
Joanna Lewis graduated from MUSC in 2007. Since then, she has held a variety of pharmacy practice roles, most recently a leadership position in the Department of Pharmacy at Duke University Hospital. Some of her responsibilities included medication safety, quality improvement, oversight of the financial charge capture process, and coordinating the implementation of a new technology system. She is passionate about precepting and mentoring new practitioners, as well as making the practice of pharmacy better.
More and more of pharmacists and pharmacy students are staking their ground on social media.
Social media presence is an important part of any brand or business—and pharmacy is no exception. As individuals turn to the internet and social media more frequently to seek information, digital platforms have provided great tools for both patients and health care professionals. A growing list of pharmacists and pharmacy students is expanding the number of health care professionals staking their ground on social media.
Being an influencer can also be a real job these days, though. Some of the biggest social media influencers in health care, such as Doctor Mike, ZDoggMD, and Kevin Pho, are creating personal brands and controlling the narrative around their expertise. Pharmacy influencers, such as Adam Martin from The Fit Pharmacist, Leslie Southard from The Lactation Pharmacist, and Suzanne Soliman from the Pharmacist Moms Group, have carved out niches that they use to unite and educate others about a specific topic or movement.
Because patients and consumers are able to find more information than ever, many professionals have created platforms to divulge it. Not every physician or pharmacist is in a traditional medicine space, either. Many of these professionals have branched out to wellness, fitness, skin care, or functional medicine (hello, Dr Mark Hyman!). Regardless, it's important that no matter in what space a person lands, they use their influence to responsibly spread information, promote advocacy, and raise awareness within their niche.
As an influencer, you are a brand. You decide what is at the heart of your content and what type of tone you'd like to have with your audience, and you get to determine how much of your personal life you're going to share.
There isn't exactly a rule book that details how to be a top influencer—and that's because there really is something for everyone. Ultimately, at the heart of it all is connecting with your audience.
So, let's talk about what that means.
What Is An Influencer?
According to SproutSocial, an influencer can be defined as someone who has "specialized knowledge, authority, or insight into a specific subject."
Influencers then use this authority to connect with their target audience and give them advice, connect them with tools they can use, and promote products that the audience may be interested in. Pharmacists, pharmacy students, and other professional accounts usually fall in the microinfluencer or content creator category.
Several types of influencers exist, each with an essential role in our digital world:
- Celebrities: People who have multiple platforms to reach their audience, such as television, ads, social media, and video.
- Industry experts: People who have made a name for themselves as an expert in their niche, who have an audience who tunes in specifically to improve their own knowledge; may do in-person engagements as well as digital work.
- Microinfluencers: People who have created a brand for themselves on social media and have amassed a large following online.
- Content creators: Bloggers and vloggers who create content on a smaller scale, but still have an engaged audience.
How Do Influencers Make Money?
The biggest questions people usually ask are "What do you do?" "How do you start?" and "How do you make money?" Although being an influencer won't immediately start you off with a 6-figure salary and steady work opportunities, many people use their job as an influencer to supplement their income.
Although it may look glamorous from the outside, a lot of work needs to go on behind the scenes. Over time, some can transition from working traditional full time jobs to doing social media full time instead.
Some of the outlets that influencers may use are digital products, podcasts, sponsored posts, and affiliate marketing.
Four Steps to Consider Before You Start
Is this something you just want to play around with and see what lands? Do you want a fun hobby that supplements your career? Or do you want to make a career our of it? Ask yourself a few key questions before you start.
Ask yourself why: Why do you want to start a public social media presence? Don't worry: This answer can evolve as you go. Answering this question will help you focus your brand and target your audience with content that is right for them. Some reasons may be to explore a creative interest, supplement your career, make connections, build a platform for advocacy, or build credibility in a niche field.
Explore social platforms: One of the first steps to becoming an online influencer is actually signing up for the same platforms that your audience uses. For some people, Instagram is the only way to connect tot heir audience. For others, TikTok, Twitter, or LinkedIn may work better. To set yourself up for success, do research on which platform is right for you before you start investing serious energy into this goal.
Zoom in on your focus: Think about what you want to be known for. Make sure that any opportunities you pursue align with that vision. It will reduce your audience's trust if you are an influencer who focuses on health, but you suddenly decide to do a sponsorship with a fast-food company for a cheeseburger. To build an effective brand, you need to start out small and specific to gain an audience, then continue to foster that relationship. After all, it can be tempting to try and land big-brand deals, but you have to remember that your audience's reaction is what will make or break those deals.
Grow your expertise: Your brand is you. Just like you wouldn't want to be the same version of you that you were in middle school, you don't want your brand to stay at the same level. You need to continually push yourself to learn, improve, and do more so that you can continue to grow and help your audience as well as your own expertise.
Don't forget that one of the best things is the ability to change. How you start does not have to be where you end.
The journey to becoming an influencer can allow you to manage your own career, connect with thousands of like-minded people, and build an income for yourself. Take careful first steps to make sure that you are on the right path to success and that you can meaningfully connect with your audience.
In the end, your brand and position as an influencer can be a reflection on your own expertise, and that should always help lift up the community you work with as well.
About the Author
Joanna Lewis, PharmD, MBA, has held a variety of pharmacy practice roles, including a leadership position in the Department of Pharmacy at Duke University Hospital. She is currently a 340B Compliance Coordinator at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida. Lewis is passionate about precepting and mentoring new practitioners, as well as making the practice of pharmacy better.