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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Guidance is no barrier to engaging on Twitter

Five simple, compliant tactics for European pharma marketers to consider

Pharma compliance on Twitter

1. Listen

Listening is the starting point when thinking about engagement opportunities on Twitter. Using the many listening platforms available (they vary from free and small monthly fees to enterprise licences), one can quickly set up profiles around the topics which are important to you. For example, if you are interested in listening to what your customers are saying about your disease state or brand, you'll create a stream of data to sort through to help build a picture of what topics are important to them, from an unbranded and branded standpoint. 

And your customers are definitely talking about your disease area and brand, whether you are listening to them or not. From rare diseases to common ailments, there is a good chance that your customers are talking. One note: I would recommend knowing your adverse event reporting procedure (or make sure your digital agency is trained on your policy) to ensure you are following your established protocol for reporting appropriate content.

2. Identify and engage community leaders

Once you start listening, you'll begin to see trends in who is speaking, sharing and engaging the most. Active users are most likely the 'leaders' of the community, regularly posting to, and engaging with, the same customers you spend your marketing budgets to build relationships with.

This presents a great opportunity to start a dialogue with these important community influencers. If you can, you should go to the same conferences they are attending and listen to what they have to say. Their presentations and points of view are critical to the path of better understanding what your communities are looking for. Invite them to have a coffee at the local café and continue to listen. You may not like what they have to say all the time, but it's important to build a long term relationship, which will ultimately benefit the community by helping to fill in gaps with the support and content you are supplying on behalf of your company.

3. 'Hashtag customer service'

Once you have established a listening programme on Twitter, a natural next step is to work on increasing the reach of the services you already provide. Let's say you have a service on your disease education website where members of the public can post a question that is not product related and receive a response via email.

What if you extended this service to Twitter via a hashtag? All a Twitter user has to do is place the hashtag in their message (example: #askPHARMA) and your Twitter listening platform will pick up on the hashtag request and notify the appropriate team member (maybe even your medical information call centre), giving your team the immediate opportunity to send a response, providing the same level of customer service that most customers expect outside pharma.

4. Sponsored tweet

There is a simple approach to getting your message out to your audiences without being directly involved in the Twitter community. Pharma companies have started to use sponsored tweets. This is the ability to use an established Twitter account to deliver a message to an audience. For example, a pharma company could pay any Twitter influencer to tweet a message about a particular healthcare-related topic to its followers.

By sponsoring the Tweet, pharma companies expand the reach of that message beyond their community of followers and reach an even larger audience of prospects and customers. This also can help link the company to a respected individual or corporation. In fact, CVS just sponsored the hashtag #onegoodreason to promote its new no-tobacco policy to as wide an audience as possible. Without choosing to sponsor the hashtag, #onegoodreason would only be visible to its current Twitter followers.

5. Build an FDA-approved Tweet

As you build your community and determine content to engage your audience, it's important to be mindful of the new FDA regulations, which were designed to promote health literacy and accuracy. This can be challenging with a 140-character limit, but if you follow these steps, you will be tweeting FDA approved messages in no time.

  1. Include the benefit information
  2. Communicate at a minimum the most serious risk, along with a direct hyperlink to a more complete discussion of risk information
  3. Include the full FDA-approved product name.

Below is an example that follows these steps and was provided by the FDA:

NoFocus (rememberine HCl) for mild to moderate memory loss; may cause seizures in patients with a seizure disorder [134/140]

Consider starting with basic steps to develop a social approach to Twitter – small steps can help you move forward in your social engagement journey.

Three steps for building an FDA-approved tweet

Include the benefit information
01 no focus tweet
Communicate at a minimum the most serious risk, along with direct hyperlink to a more complete discussion of risk information
nofocus tweet 2
Include the full FDA-approved product name
nofocus tweet 3

This post is provided by Cadient for information purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as regulatory or legal advice.

Article by
Gene Miller

Gene is director of commercial strategy and innovation at Cadient Group, a leading digital marketing agency based in the Philadelphia area. Previous to Cadient, Gene led US and international digital strategies and teams at Shire Pharmaceuticals. Gene has 19 years of multichannel digital experience in the healthcare landscape. He can be reached at

30th October 2014

From: Marketing, Regulatory



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