Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Twitter Craze in the Context of ePharma

With special thanks to guest Intouch blogger and Emerging Media Planner, Jason Ary! The following article appeared in the latest issue of the "Intouch with ePharma" newsletter. To sign up for future newsletters, just visit our signup page.

An Intro to the Twitter Craze
Over the past few months, it seems like we’ve been inundated with this Twitter thing. So what is Twitter? How does it work? Where is its place in the online spectrum?

If you are asking yourself these questions, you’re not alone. Twitter is the hottest topic in the online frontier that celebrities, companies, advertisers and ordinary people are all trying to understand right now.

Twitter 101
Twitter is a microblogging platform that provides instant communication for instant gratification in a short-attention-span world. People can communicate with, or “follow,” virtually anyone around the world. The backbone to Twitter is the “tweet” – a short, 140-character (or less) message that can be used to inform others of what you are up to, pass on links to important stories, or participate in “tweeting convos” on particular subjects between other users.
The ability to quickly dispatch messages through Twitter to your followers, who can then “re-tweet” your post to their friends, allows for quick and viral spread of information in ways no other medium can match currently.

Twitter’s Impact on the Health Care Industry
The medical and pharmaceutical communities are beginning to see the value behind Twitter. Engaging consumers and HCPs with relevant material at the right time has been a constant challenge for the health care industry. Twitter gives the industry a way to overcome this challenge.

How can pharma utilize Twitter? Here are a few ideas:

  • Enhance customer service – Trained customer service representatives can answer consumers’ questions promptly and provide helpful product information.

  • Brand reputation management – Quickly dispel product myths and misinformation and provide appropriate messaging.

  • Patient-to-caregiver advocacy – Improve communication between patients and caregivers.

  • Communicate the bad with the good – Quickly communicate safety issues or product recalls.

A few pharmaceutical companies already have ventured into the Twitter waters. AstraZeneca uses Twitter to post company announcements and press releases. Boehringer Ingelheim uses Twitter as an audience engagement tool — posting seminars, expert comments, sharing conference information and articles.

Even physicians are tweeting. Recently Dr. Joel Wallskog and his orthopedic surgical team performed a twittered knee-replacement surgery with live, ongoing Twitter updates. Surgeons taking part in the operation took turns giving Twitter updates to followers asking questions about the surgery. The goals of tweeting during surgery are to comfort and educate consumers who might be undergoing the same procedure in the future and to provide instant, unique insights to HCPs and medical students.

Twitter’s Impact on PR
Businesses already have realized the impact Twitter has on addressing important PR situations. You might have seen in recent weeks the disturbing videos of a Domino’s pizza employee contaminating food that was served to customers. Addressing PR disasters like this can be challenging, and efforts often are considered “too little, too late.” However, Domino’s management utilized the same techniques the offending employees used to get their video out there: online social mediums.

According to an article by The Wall Street Journal, nearly 70% of the conversations surrounding this marketing nightmare took place on Twitter and YouTube. Realizing this is where the conversation really was happening, within 48 hours, Domino’s posted video statements from the CEO on YouTube, as well as a specific Twitter account to address consumers directly within the online social space.

While Twitter’s value goes way beyond crisis management, this example provides a good glimpse into the value of being able to quickly relay short, important messages to relevant people and institutions.

Are You Tweeting Yet?
In March 2009 alone, traffic/users on Twitter increased 131% in one month. With Oprah’s Twitter show, Ashton Kutcher’s race to 1,000,000 followers with CNN, and the buzz of celebrities using Twitter, it is the hottest social medium portal on the Internet today.

What are you waiting for? Check it out today at http://twitter.com/. And be sure to follow Intouch Solutions at www.twitter.com/intouchsol and Wendy Blackburn at www.twitter.com/wendyblackburn.


Mark Hollander said...

Nice overview of the phenomenon, especially "Twitter 101" and your 4 points about how pharma might use Twitter to its advantage. Brand reputation management is vital as you point out with the Domino's example, and as McNeil learned with "Motrin Moms." If companies do nothing more than simply monitor mentions they will go a long way to not only preventing PR disasters, but setting themselves up as potential heroes.

Nicole Rivera said...

Great article, thank you. I really like what you said about using Twitter to improve brand recognition and reputation.

Thanks for the info!