Think about the work you do. More often than not, as communicators and marketers, we have a common objective to get an audience to buy into the inherent value or benefit of a behavior change, whether that behavior change involves adopting a new product, engaging in service (e.g. get a diagnostic test) or making lifestyle adjustments that will positively impact their health.   

Because behavioral science tells us that most decisions are made on an emotional level, marketers need ways to amplify the perceived emotional benefit of change. A good place to start is with the science of persuasion. It leverages social influence to appeal to an audience’s fundamental emotional and social needs. 

Marketers can uncover opportunities to impact decision-making just by leveraging the systematic ways other people influence how we think, feel and act.  For example:

  • We tend to like and trust people who are similar to ourselves. 
  • We have a fundamental need to ‘belong’ which means we tend to mimic what others are thinking, feeling, and doing. 
  • When we are in new situations, we seek security from others with more knowledge or experience to guide us. 
  • We defer to authority as it reduces perceived risks and fear of an uncertain future. 


The best application of social influence is through programs that gather user generated content (UGC), product/service reviews, and leverage the power of social media influencers. These tactics give an audience the feeling of “you are like me and there’s a bond between us for similar needs/desires because we wanted to buy the same thing, so let me tell you what I think and I want to hear what you do too.”

Let’s start with taking a look at UGC. One of the best examples of this in action is from The Excedrin® Migraine Experience. The video advertisements showcased a real patient’s story and experience with migraines and included the perspective of the migraine sufferer’s loved ones. Excedrin also incorporated a virtual reality component that let these loved ones experience what it’s like to have a migraine firsthand. Although the videos were ultimately sourced and developed by the business, they still allowed for real patient stories, in the form of UGC, to be at the center of the experience. This kind of educational, empathetic, and authentic video has the ability to generate a more emotional connection with the audience, resulting in more engagement and shares than a traditional video featuring actors.

On the other hand, reviews can also add credibility for a brand and serve as a great way to persuade an audience into behavior change. When someone reads the reviews of their peers, it often signals “this is someone like me and we have the same goals (to buy XYZ, or to do XYZ).”  Writing reviews also gives the reviewer a chance to be recognized and feel empowered to influence others, which strengthens their commitment to the brand even further.  Platforms such as Trust Pilot and Yotpo create a streamlined way for eCommerce brands like healthcare wearable devices to gather reviews post-purchase, which can then be promoted through their website and social media ads. 

Finally, leveraging social influencers is powerful for both patient and HCP audiences. Consumers who follow influencers they relate to are exposed to brands that fit their same values and desires. But influencers can benefit too. Because they also have the ability to share direct links to purchase opportunities, they can be compensated through affiliate programs to get commissions for percentages of sales which increases the incentive for them to participate.  On the B2B side, we see healthcare companies activating this through their use of KOLs at conferences and the co-creation of video testimonials that can be featured on websites and social media buys to show their peers new brands to consider in their practice. 

About the Author:

Kathleen Starr, PhD, is the Managing Director, Behavioral Science & Insights at Syneos Health.

With a 10 year background in CPG program planning and execution, including 6 years on Unilever as a CX & CRM Center of Excellence lead, Lisa brings advanced digital experience to healthcare. For the past year at GSW, Lisa has worked as a lead engagement strategist to develop groundbreaking innovations for clients, including conversational marketing automation strategies and the launch of the highly successful Edwards LifeSciences Virtual Assistant (Chatbot).