Big pharma's products on Twitter: Unimpressive

In Big Pharma and Twitter = Big joke! I demonstrated that big pharma’s presence on Twitter is pathetic. Few of the top 10 companies even maintain the Twitter address with their company’s name. If anything, the situation is even worse when it comes to the top-selling drugs. Big pharma expends considerable effort and dollars to produce and promote slick product-specific websites for its brands. Look at Lipitor.com for example. All the big drugs have sites like that.

By contrast the Twitter presence is a real horror show. Let’s have a look at the top 10 drugs by sales and their presence on Twitter:

  1. Lipitor: http://www.twitter.com/Lipitor “has been suspended due to strange activity.” In other words, the same characters who sell fake Lipitor via Spam had probably also registered the Lipitor site on Twitter until Twitter put a stop to it. (The Twitter Viagra site http://twitter.com/Viagra is suspended, too.)
  2. Advair: http://twitter.com/advair The name on this one is “CUSTOMER CARE,” following no one, and with two followers. “This person has protected their updates” –not sure why.
  3. Plavix: http://twitter.com/plavix has two followers and a single one-word update: “Eating” from October.
  4. Nexium: http://twitter.com/nexium is maintained by Rui Manuel Fonseca, who describes himself as “Newly graduated photographer looking fo his way…”
  5. Norvasc: http://twitter.com/norvasc is maintained by Jason Lovett, whose bio reads “Viva La Revolucion”
  6. Remicade: http://twitter.com/remicade is maintained by someone you know who decided to babysit until the owner wakes up
  7. Enbrel: http://twitter.com/enbrel is registered to someone named Dave Allingham who hasn’t posted any updates. He is following one person: Consumer Reports.
  8. Zyprexa: http://twitter.com/zyprexa is registered to MaryAnn Hutchinson who’s posted one update, “Listening to KTAR and getting pissed regarding imigration and cigarette prices.”
  9. Diovan: http://twitter.com/diovan has one update from way back in 2007, a classic piece of spam, “Buy Diovan Purchase Diovan (Valsartan) Online Diovan, Order Diovan at Canadian pharmacy.” It links to 1canadameds.com, which seems to have been shuttered.
  10. Risperdal: http://twitter.com/risperdal is held by Benjamin Blevins. His one update, from April, is an offer to sell this name. He lists his gmail address.

I understand that it’s not totally obvious what pharma companies should do with product sites on Twitter. But I find it pretty lame that not a single one of these top 10 drugs –each with marketing budgets in the millions or more– has paid any attention to this element of brand identity.

May 26, 2009

10 thoughts on “Big pharma's products on Twitter: Unimpressive”

  1. Just what I expected, David. I researched this for a while and haven’t found a legit pharma Twitter account. I’ve found a number of company ones and a few pharma employees, but no brands yet.

    Here’s the list again, which includes other pharma and healthcare social media examples beyond Twitter as well: http://bit.ly/11dBiH

  2. http://twitter.com/gardasil is also taken by Kristin Johns. Last week, it linked to a Blogger site called at gardasilhpv.com, but the Twitter profile has since been changed to link to a gmail account (gardasilhpv@) and I can’t seem to find the website anymore. Hmmm.

    It seemed like Kristin Johns was a concerned mother, but now I’m entirely unsure.

  3. I think big pharma is having real difficulties with the concept of what to do with Twitter (is it PR? medical info? marketing?).

    And don’t forget that there are significant differences between the US and Europe regarding who can say what to patients.

  4. I think they are all paying very close attention to it. It seems most brands panicked and some of them had someone in their PR depts register their brand names (for protection) so no-one can post items (under their brand name) that are derogatory in nature. I mean- yea anyone can post anything at any time- but as long as it doesn’t come from rt@Liptior” I believe that is what they are most concerned with protecting right now- the trademark. (That is what my client is most concerned with…in addition to negating any negative press that surfaces.) They can only monitor so much at this point–not every company has employed a social media regulatory monitoring group like J&J has–most companies are trying to work that into their marketing team budget but don’t have the data/ROI that would show rational/allow for team expansion/ new department hires- it’s hard enough in this recession to keep your job when you know you’re needed- think how difficult it must be to hire new people for an unknown promotional entity. On a positive note some forward-thinking pharma companies are utilizing twitter for company updates, etc (Roche, Novartis) so hats off to them for utilizing the channel the best they can. That’s the most they can do right now without being completely risk adverse. They are getting their feet wet. Bear with them- applaud the fact they are working through it- I would not belittle them for not jumping on the brand-bandwagon just yet- the social media field hasn’t been landscaped for pharma “brands” yet, this isn’t about selling lipgloss. Ultimately, Twitter remains the fastest WOM channel within social media right now- however I don’t believe it’s a promotional option for any pharma brands right now- 140 character doesn’t not allow for adequate room for all the FB that would need to be associated with brand + disease state mention (nor does the profile page) and lets face it- monitoring/responding to all tweets for a brand would be a 24-7 job… a job that just isn’t funded by many companies right now. This promotional paradigm shift allows us to continue to watch, absorb and influence our own thinking and solution-based recommendations. It’s definitely self-education at its best.

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