The Secrets of Vertical Social Media Channels in B2B Marketing

VerticalSocialMediaChannelSecrets.pngIn a past life before joining Maccabee in Minneapolis, I worked in a business development role for an 18-hospital system in Indiana. Traveling up and down the I-69 corridor, I visited hundreds of physician offices – of all sizes and specialties – to uncover the motivations in their referring habits to our three hospitals in Indianapolis.

While the decision tree for these physicians wasn't suprising (proximity to the patient's home, insurance coverage, etc.), there was another common refrain that presented both an opportunity and challenge for growing the hospital system's referral base: help facilitate better physician-to-physician communication.

Challenges in effective, consistent and purposeful business-to-business (B2B) communication – the type that leads to return on investment – exist in every industry. But given its highly regulated nature, healthcare offers a case study for the emerging swath of social networks that serve niche, vertical industries. Vertical social networks can help marketers break down traditional communication and access barriers by creating industry-specific havens of likeminded audiences.

In this blog post, we give you a crash course on vertical social networks and dig into Doximity*, the largest social network connecting physicians with one another, while helping marketers bridge the social-digital divide between health care providers and business.

The Promise of Vertical Social Networks for Marketers

Vertical social networks incorporate elements of open access social media platforms – think Facebook and LinkedIn. In some instances, though, membership is restricted to industry-specific professionals in an effort to foster targeted collaboration, networking and, ideally, business growth.

In addition to the healthcare industry, vertical social networks have popped up for professions as diverse as web development, academic research and military veterans (see below). The promise of these online networks is they allow users to do things traditional social media platforms won’t – like encrypted communication – and gives them streamlined access to others with their same professional interests.


So, whether it is obsessing over a line of code, discussing the nuances of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, or nerding out over research on the health benefits of watching cat videos, your marketing prospects/targets can find kindred spirits in vertical social networks.

To see the benefit of vertical social networks, look no further than Doximity, which has taken the requirements of working in a highly-regulated industry, married them with traditional social media features, and sprinkled in medical profession-specific needs. The result is a physician-only social platform built on a foundation of professional networking, continuing medical education (CME), community building and improving patient care.

Doximity has a captive, targeted audience of physicians that traditionally can only be reached via in-office lunches or CME dinners.

Doximity: An Overview

Since launching in 2011, San Francisco-based Doximity has grown its membership to 500,000 verified U.S. physicians representing more than 40 specialties. The audience on Doximity alone surpasses other key channels for marketing to physicians, including:Why_use_doximity.jpg

  • The American Medical Association member base estimated at 225,000;
  • The 123,775 members of the LinkedIn group Innovations in Health, and;
  • Physician’s Weekly, a point-of-care trade publication for healthcare professionals, which only reaches 200,000 providers.

Doximity claims: “Aside from the iPhone, there’s never been a piece of technology adopted by physicians as quickly.” And, there are third-party endorsements to back it up. From Medical Economics to Healthcare Global and MobiHealthNews, Doximity is frequently named one of the most-used medical apps.

So what makes it so enticing to physicians? In a MaccaPR blog conversation with Joe Suski, its regional vice president of business development, he said it’s Doximity’s ease of use and a combination of controlled access, educational opportunities, secured messaging, peer-to-peer collaboration and networking.

As one physician user said in company materials, “Facebook skews personal. Twitter only captures physicians interested in social self-promotion. And LinkedIn is overwhelmed by the noise of non-physicians – frankly, I get close to no use from it. Doximity is a means to actually connect to the specialists I work with every day.”

While not without detractors or risk, Doximity could offer unique benefits to marketers searching for an inroad to locked-down medical offices.

Top LEARNINGS for Marketers

Clinical ContentThrough DocNews, physicians receive the latest clinical news in their homepage news streams and email digests. Physicians are even incentivized to read these articles to earn free CME credit. The possibilities for marketers to be able to tap into those newsfeeds could be endless.

Hyper-Targeting: Suski credits the success of DocNews to Doximity’s content algorithm, which analyzes profile information to ensure the right physician is seeing the right content. For example, interventional cardiologists will receive content more focused on catheter-based treatments and other interventional procedures than on general cardiological treatments.

Data, Data, Data: With such a large, diverse membership base, Doximity has insight into physician behavior, much of which can be translated into best practices for marketers. For example, 70 percent of Doximity’s traffic comes from mobile devices, 90 percent of which come from Apple devices. Knowing this, marketers can optimize their websites and email campaigns, so physicians have a pleasant viewing experience.

Audience Strategies: It hasn’t taken long for Doximity to rack up high-profile partners interested in harnessing its audience. Since 2014, U.S. News & World Report has surveyed Doximity members for its annual “Best Hospital” rankings and to develop a Residency Navigator, which compiles physician reviews and alumni outcomes data to help medical students search for a training program. Suski said this is just the start of strategic partnerships and that Doximity is open to new ideas.

Our Take

If your B2B social media outreach is stagnant, incorporating a vertical social network strategy in your next marketing plan is one way to add life to well-worn tactics. Vertical social networks in your target industry could give you better ROI for the same effort, but with a more targeted reach, potential exclusivity and tailored content options.

While a comprehensive list of vertical social networks doesn’t exist, it’s easy to find one (or two) by doing a Google search with your industry + vertical social network. Just a little research might result in you finding the secret weapon for your next campaign.


Image Source: Doximity

*Note: Doximity is just one vertical social network catering to U.S. physicians. Its main competitor, Sermo, did not respond to Maccabee's inquiries.

About the Author

Andy Pollen

Andy Pollen is a former Maccabeast.

Topics:  PR Perspectives, Social Media Marketing

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