Millennial influencers are redefining healthcare communications in India

Neha Chandra
Millennials and Gen Z are the new workforce. We are the generation that sat in non-AC classrooms, penning down notes and cringing at the squeaky screech of the chalk on the black board. We are the gen that grew up watching YouTube videos, and is now creating them as well. We are also the gen that is now giving presentations on virtual platforms and creating reels on Instagram to organically build communities.

We’ve seen it all. From being passive consumers of media, we’ve gradually taken it upon ourselves to impart knowledge to our community through self-curated content. We are curious and we question everything, but we also provide solutions.

According to an October 2020 survey conducted on “Patterns of Internet Usage Among Youths In India,” by Institute of Governance, Policies & Politics (IGPP) in association with Social Media Matters (SMM) and Youth Online Learning Organization (Yolo), more than 80 percent users (between the age of 18 and 35) use social media in their online hours. In fact, Instagram is the new dominant platform and Facebook has been pushed to the sidelines. These social media platforms continue to fine tune their offerings, working in tandem with continual audience engagement and feedback.

As the 2020 lockdown pushed us to the confines of our homes, we witnessed a prominent increase in healthcare communications and consequent marketing. We saw the emergence of new, authentic voices on social media platforms, who became advocates of prevailing healthcare issues, not limited to COVID. While newspaper articles and websites have been the primary source of information, social media with its creative, engaging, and evolving content strategies, has captured the attention of the youth of our country. Contrary to popular opinion, we do not waste time online, but immerse ourselves in meaningful content and educate ourselves through content created by experts emerged from amongst us.

What are these experts doing right?

Simplifying health, the millennial way

These healthcare social media influencers post information relevant to their field such as psychology, gynecology, general medicine, sexual and reproductive health, dermatology to name a few. Healthcare is a serious subject and while conversations have to be handled carefully, that does not mean the content needs to be boring. In fact, talking and understanding about your health feels like a mammoth task because of the complexity attached to it. Through well researched high-quality posts, videos, stories, these influencers break down complex topics and address issues that might be taboo and ignored because of the same reason. They are careful, conscious individuals who understand the responsibility attached with communicating sensitive information online. None of these professionals offer individual medical consultation through their handles and profess their passion about healthcare and the need to bust the myths and clear the information clutter.

Some of the voices that have come to attention are Dr. Tanaya with her IG handle, Dr Cuterus who vouches to talk about everything the society discusses in hushed tones behind closed doors. Her focus is on sexual and reproductive health and by way of holding live discussions with celebrities such as Dolly Singh and posting easy to comprehend questions, creative drawings, Did You Knows, she talks about chlamydia, menstruation, STIs, abortion, PCOS, etc.

They also look at collaborating with fellow influencers in the same space such as Karishma who is a certified Sexuality Educator and goes by the handle talkyounevergot, Niveditha Manokaran (dr_nive_untaboos), Dr Siddhant Bhargava and Dr Prateek Makwana. These experts host AMA (ask me anything) sessions for people to ask their queries, hold online workshops inviting eminent professionals, post FAQs and how-to tutorials, infographics, and quizzes for higher engagement. Short videos have become an effective engagement tool.

Nielsen studies show that home-bound consumers have led to a 60% increase in the amount of video content watched globally. The number of live video sessions conducted on social media platforms by content creators also hiked in 2020.

The lockdown also somewhere brought to light the topic of mental health as the feeling of stress and loneliness and uncertainty loomed over a lot of us. Certified mental health experts, Clinical Psychologists, therapists and stepped up and took to social media to create a safe space and openly talk about these issues.

Bhavya Kulshreshtha (adeclarationofsentiment) uses graphics and reels to convey about relationships, emotional trauma, pandemic induced stress, panic attack amongst other. Clinical psychologist, Sonali Gupta talks about how to manage one’s emotions during the pandemic, anxiety, fear, self-care and the art of slowing down all in interactive and trending formats. These therapists are talking about their personal lives to normalize the idea of taking help and to remove the stigma around it.

Redefining marketing through storytelling
These influencers have had a steeply rising following in the pandemic with followers upto 400K and a high engagement rate with people posting their questions and seeking valuable answers. There are also micro influencers with a growing following (about 8k) but with immense potential because they have their niche audience and such influencers will help brands establish their footing with people who would resonate with their brand goals.

As there is a high level of trust and credibility these influencers have built over time, they forayed into the space of healthcare marketing, recommending select brands for products like menstrual cups, mental health books, lubricants, etc. Divija Bhasin who goes by awkwardgoat3, with a following of over 55k, collaborated with safe2choose.org, an international social enterprise working in areas like reproductive health and access to abortion.

While we will always have the need for healthcare products, what these millennial influencers have done is redefine marketing through storytelling. They aren’t endorsing these products outrightly but have a message to share with their audience that of making informed choices and sharing their recommendations with them. Brands have therefore gotten a chance to realign their strategies and leverage the rising demand for influencer marketing. These healthcare creators are now bringing credibility to the emerging as well as existing brands.

So, as we are surrounded with plethora of apps and abundant data and our retention capabilities are rapidly faltering, such influencers pave way for easy absorption of content and an entrusted space to discuss.

We are millennial communicators. We do not shy away from addressing the topics deemed as uncomfortable.

We talk. We discuss. We debate. We communicate.