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Pharma ‘neither leading nor lagging’ on Twitter

Benchmarking study counters some of the myths of pharmaceutical social media

The pharmaceutical industry has not been slower than other sectors to adopt Twitter, even proving itself ahead of some major consumer brands, according to a benchmarking report.

Social media consultants Whydot found that while pharma as a business sector only had an average number of followers, it showed better than average levels of engagement with them, compared to other sectors.

Taken as a whole, it confirms that a lack of regulatory guidance has not stopped the industry from engaging on social networks, even if some are more ready to use - and experiment with - the technology than others.

Whydot's Silja Chouquet looked at the most prominent corporate accounts and concluded that pharma is “neither lagging nor leading” when it comes to the micro-blogging network, but there's still work to be done for companies that want to use it more effectively.

“We need to be willing to invest in creating a continuous stream of information on those topics we choose to engage with. We need to put the resources in place to build loyalty, maintain and create engagement with those stakeholders we want to target with that information.We need to separate our streams of content into smaller more focused bits in order to become more nimble, to be able to better target and select those conversations we chose to engage with,” Chouquet writes in the report.

Carried out during the third quarter, the Pharma Twittersphere benchmarking study looked at how well pharma companies engage on the micro-blogging network by analysing 15 corporate Twitter accounts and the 50,000 separate Twitter accounts following them.

When it came to follower numbers – a good place to start, although clearly not an absolute measure of success – pharma performed solidly.

On average the companies analysed had 7,704 followers each, placing them in the top two per cent of accounts on Twitter. The three accounts with the largest number of followers - Pfizer, Novartis and Roche, with more than 10,000 each - were in the top 0.16 per cent of Twitter accounts.

The average number of pharma followers per company was 2-3 times less than consumer facing sectors with companies like Pepsi or Microsoft. Nevertheless, pharma still had had 2-3 times more followers than other heavily-regulated sectors such as finance, insurance and healthcare.

Pharma's social media frontrunners were even quicker off the mark with Twitter than some major consumer brands. The first two pharma companies to begin tweeting were Novartis and Boehringer in November 2008, both starting before either Pepsi or Coca-Cola had even joined the service.

The accounts benchmarked were: Amgen, AstraZeneca, AstraZeneca US, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim, Boehringer Ingelheim US, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, GlaxoSmithKline US, Johnson & Johnson, Lundbeck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche and Vertex.

Between them they account for 53, 171 separate followers who have a combined potential reach (the sum of their followers) of 55.6m.

“Social media, including Twitter, holds the power to profoundly change the way that healthcare is delivered,” the report concluded.

“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.”

24th January 2012

From: Marketing

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