5 Steps to Creating a Vibrant Online Patient Community: Melanoma Research Alliance’s Melanoma>Exchange on Inspire

By Judy Chandler, MPH, CHES

Inspire launched a melanoma patient and caregiver support community in 2014, but was looking for a non-profit partner to contribute melanoma expertise and resources to community members. In 2017, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) started expanding its efforts beyond research to also include patients and caregivers. That’s when the MRA and Inspire joined forces and launched the Melanoma > Exchange Support Community on Inspire.

Inspire is a true partner for MRA in our work to better serve patients and families affected by melanoma. The Inspire team is responsive, smart, and are all incredibly patient-focused. They’ve helped us to develop a vibrant online community using the best-in-class technology–something we’d never be able to do on our own. – Cody Barnett, Director of Communications and Patient Engagement at the Melanoma Research Alliance

MRA envisioned a research-focused community that would make information accessible about advancements in research and break down misperceptions about clinical trials to help patients make informed decisions about their care. With support from Inspire, MRA implemented a five-step marketing and engagement strategy:

Step 1: Facilitate Activity Through Volunteer Community Leaders. MRA recruited volunteer Community Leaders to facilitate engagement in the Melanoma > Exchange. The Community Leaders sparked new conversations and were able to relate to member concerns and experiences by sharing their own melanoma journeys.

Hi, everyone! Participating in a clinical trial (stage IV melanoma) saved my life. If anyone wants to hear about a first-hand patient experience, please feel free to reach out!
-Inspire Community Leader Volunteer

Step 2: Host “Ask the Expert” Sessions. MRA hosted regular “Ask the Expert” Q&A sessions. These segments gave MRA a new opportunity to promote the community through social media and helped MRA achieve its mission of advancing research. It also proved popular with community members who enjoyed the opportunity of asking questions of leading experts in the field.

patient online community

Step 3: Incorporate Melanoma > Exchange into MRA’s Google Ad grant. MRA allocated a portion of MRA’s monthly non-profit Google Ad grant to increase visibility and traffic to the MRA’s webpage about the Melanoma > Exchange. This helped people looking for support or information find the community.

Step 4: Engage with other Melanoma Stakeholders. MRA also promoted the community by collaborating with smaller melanoma organizations, clinicians and researchers, and other stakeholders.

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Step 5: Educate and Learn from Community Members. MRA involved its science and communications teams to bring resources to the community and to learn from community discussions. Many patient-facing resources created by MRA have been inspired by and informed from anonymous community posts.

During the first year, community membership doubled and member posts grew by more than 700%. The partnership between MRA and Inspire enables both organizations to support the needs of people facing melanoma at a level beyond what would be possible for either on its own. For MRA, Inspire’s community platform, robust community monitoring, and proficiency in community building strengthen the MRA’s core objectives. For Inspire, MRA’s expertise and deep understanding of melanoma, connection to clinical expertise create unique value in driving research and education for the melanoma support community. Melanoma > Exchange is now a thriving community supporting more than 3,700 members.

The Melanoma Research Alliance is the largest nonprofit funder of melanoma research. Due to the ongoing support of its founders, 100 percent of donations to MRA go directly to its melanoma research program.

For a more detailed description of the steps taken by our partner, MRA, to ensure community success, see our newest case study.

Download this case study, “How to Build a Support Community”

Download this case study
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Inspire offers a trusted community to patients and caregivers.  Our goal with this blog, this website and our content is to provide the life science industry access to the true, authentic patient voice.  In so doing, we support faithful operationalization of patient-centricity.  Take a look at our case studies, eBooks and news outlet coverage.