Why pharma engagement on twitter matters!

Written by Silja on 9 December 2011 in pharma twittersphere - 3 Comments

The fact that thousands of stakeholders chose to follow pharma accounts on twitter deserves our attention. It says that there are people out there genuinely interested in what pharma has to say, that there is media eagerly awaiting to scoop up the newest press release, investors keen to learn more about the pipeline compound, patients looking for support with their treatment, advocacy groups ready to collaborate on disease awareness, health care professionals loyal and open to engage with scientific content about a product.

Twitter is the new answer to your old loyalty and outreach program. It is your free online informed consent giving you access to thousands of high profile target customers.

53, 171 followers now follow pharma on twitter. Their combined potential reach or the sum of their followers, was 55.6 million. Yet, we still don’t seem to be able to measure and size the opportunity. We have learned to compliantly engage in meaningful ways on twitter, yet do not seem to be ready to take the plunge and fully integrate twitter, or social media in general, into our channel mix and organizational processes.

Engagement is a relationship. You have to invest in it constantly and engage consistently for it to work and flourish in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. As we will see in this analysis, despite having a twitter presence, not all companies made the commitment to be engaged on twitter, using it mainly as a one way channel for their press-releases.

The reasons to stay engaged in social media for pharma are, of course, numerous: to improve reputation, inject humanity into the stiff corporate presence, provide support and information to patients and carers; hoping that doing all of this better than your competitors will somehow give you an advantage with your stakeholders.

This made us wonder: Does it really make a difference whether or not you are following people back and how frequent you tweet? Does engagement on twitter impact the quality of your followers? And how? Can we see differences in type and quality of followers by the strategic objectives that pharma companies have set themselves for their presence on twitter… knowing that they cannot control who follows them?

Yes, it does! As the graph above shows, JNJ and Boehringer “beat” Pfizer and Novartis in terms of reach, even though they have less than half of their followers! Through continuous engagement these companies forged themselves a powerful outreach channel. The quality and dedication to the relationships they forged themselves with a highly engaged audience of relevant stakeholders on twitter has payed. Engagement matters.

The mission of the pharmaceutical industry is to improve healthcare and social media, including twitter, holds the power to profoundly change the way that healthcare is delivered.

Social media thus has created unprecedented opportunities to influence awareness, access and adherence to treatment. It provides pharma with the unique chance to demonstrate that it can be open and transparent; with the opportunity to show how much it cares about improving the health of its patients. A pharma company, wishing to use social media to improve patient outcomes, can only do so successfully if it manages to build trust, credibility and collaboration with the online community first.

Above find a table with the potential reach (sum of followers) by disease area of stakeholders following pharma.  It shows that Media, Healthcare professionals, Patient advocacy and Epatients now directly follow pharma news and updates on twitter. The reach of these stakeholder groups is much less relevant though than the fact that twitter provides us with a way to directly engage with them.  Unfortunately, it is also exactly this opportunity to interact that has slowed down twitter’s, and social media’s, adoption in pharma.

The pharmaceutical industry is regulated along stakeholder communications. Yet twitter, unlike regulations, does not usually grant us the knowledge as to exactly which stakeholder was reached with which message. It also makes no provisions for the type of immediate and continuous exchange that social media is based on.

We hope our analysis will facilitate the appreciation and understanding of followers in new ways, not just as numbers in social media audits, but as new channels to existing and new stakeholders; a new communications method necessitating new approaches. Every single follower has to be seen as an opportunity to ask the right questions, as a potential partner to engage in meaningful conversations with, as a way to serve our customers’ needs better.

In conclusion to this first part of the twittersphere benchmark, we learned that with a potential reach of 55.6 mio, and an highly engaged relevant audience, twitter is a promising tool to use alongside traditional communication channels. The quality and engagement of pharma twittersphere followers seems to be much higher than average. We also saw in the benchmark section that some pharma companies are more engaged than others and reap the benefits in terms of the followers they manage to attract.

Yes, it does really seem to make a difference whether or not you are following people back
Yes, how frequently you tweet does matter, as it gives the impulse for further retweets and mentions
Yes, engagement on twitter impacts the size of your followers
Yes, differences in type and quality of followers exist between the different companies as a result of their engagement behavior on twitter.

Not everything that can be counted, counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. – Albert Einstein


3 Comments on "Why pharma engagement on twitter matters!"

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  3. Fred Harrington 22 August 2016 at 6 h 56 min ·

    This is some serious research work. Thanks for sharing Silja!

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