This first analysis on the state of the pharma twittersphere will compare how many people follow the pharmacos’ twitter accounts (followers), how many people pharmacos follow back (following) and the number of times the account is updated (updates). This analysis is supposed to give us a first big picture view of the pharma twittersphere … and you will see that even this “plain vanilla“ exercise already raises many questions.
I chose to only track big pharma’s official corporate communication accounts in this analysis to keep things comparable (my apologies to Novo Nordisk and Sanofi – I will talk about your approach in an upcoming post). Included in this analysis, you will thus find the following accounts:
Big pharma presence on twitter is very recent- all corporate accounts are less than a year old, most count only a few months of “twitter“ experience.
It is important to keep this in mind as, obviously, the time spent on twitter impacts the number of updates, followers and even following on twitter. This caveat is especially true for Amgen, Genentech and GSK who joined twitter less than two months ago.
So let’s get started by looking at the number of followers: The graph below compares the pharmacos’ number of followers to the overall average of the group. Conclusion: Novartis, JNJ and Boehringer track above average in terms of followers.
On average, a pharma twitter account is thus followed by about 1300 people!! Wow, I’m jealous, but is this a lot or little compared to other industries, media channels, or twitter as a whole. What is the benchmark?
Next, I expected that the number of followers would driven by the number of following and updates a pharmaco provides. The more you participate, the more you get followed, right?
As you will see from the graph below, this holds true only for JNJ and Boehringer, who have above average following. It does not necessarily work for the others, and especially not for Novartis.
So now we know that on average pharma companies only follow 30% (392 following/ 1306 followers) of their followers – is that a “good ratio“?
What is most striking though is not the average but the variation! The differences between the companies are huge. There seems to be three approaches to pharmacos’ following on twitter:
1. Do not follow anyone – Amgen
2. Only follow selection of followers – AZ, Roche, Genentech, GSK, Novartis
3. Follow (almost) everyone who follows you – Boehringer and JNJ
I noticed that many pharamcos started using twitter not following anyone and then came around to following at least a few of us – if you don’t follow anyone, what is the point of being on twitter, no?
I am quiet intrigued though by the middle category where most companies operate right now. I wonder: Do they have a list of selection criteria of who qualifies for “twitter following“? If so, what would these criteria be? Anyone willing to share?
I am also impressed by Boehringer and JNJ – how do they keep up with following so many people? KUDOS!
I believe that whether and how pharmacos use the following function on twitter largely will depend on the social media maturity of the organization – especially the legal department’s .
Next, let’s look at the number of updates: Surely, the number of followers will correlate to the amount of content provided!
Well, sort of. JNJ and Boehringer post above average updates on twitter, confirming this hypothesis. Also, Roche’s high activity might explain the large number of followers despite being selective about who they are following. AstraZeneca is in line as well, tracking just below average on all three comparisons.
In the end, I combined my analysis in this matrix to illustrate my simplistic framework of following (y-axis), updates (x-axis) and followers (bubble size).
So what does this tell us? Boehringer and JNJ lead the pack in the pharma twittersphere across the three parameters. They seem to be able to follow who they want, update frequently and thus harvest many followers. Roche needs to work on the following and keep up the good work with the updates, while AstraZenca should work on both following and updates . The newcomers to the twittersphere still seem to study it, trying to figure out their update and following policies – learn quickly, guys!
Only Novartis remains a mystery to me – Number one company being followed, but following almost no one and updating less than average – hmm, I have to admit I am stuck on this one ^^
In conclusion, this first high level comparison of pharmaco twitter presences raises more questions than it answers: Is reaching a maximum amount of followers really an objective in and of itself? Shouldn’t interacting with your audience be another or maybe THE most important objective for pharmacos’s twitter efforts?
I know it is tempting, but I believe, we have to avoid getting stuck on the numbers, especially the followers. In this podcast with John Mack, Boehringer’s twitter master mind John Pugh says that their objective was to target and interact with journalists and physicians via twitter. My next post will thus focus on comparing the “quality“ of the twitter audiences of Novartis, Boehringer and JNJ.
The third piece of my pharma twittersphere analysis will then go into the quality of the pharmaco twitter conversation.
Finally, I will wrap up my analysis with some suggestions on the way forward (if you want to help me – please answer this poll.)
In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed my analysis, please add to my thinking through your comments, – and stay tuned for the next posts