With more than 400 million monthly unique visitors in 2011, Twitter leads the world of digital conversation. Some big pharmaceutical players have already begun to join the conversation.
Examples? I’ll give you three very different strategies by three different pharmaceutical companies.
1. Pfizer Inc.: This pharma giant did its research and understood that transparency in social media is key to successful engagement. The company explicitly shows in its Twitter wallpaper that Jen Kokell (of Pfizer’s Global Media Relations Department) tweets on its behalf. Followers see that Pfizer isn’t soapboxing from a big talking head (oh man, I love Wizard of Oz references), but giving them a real person to speak to and hear from. If the cogs that keep the social media machine running are people, then Pfizer has ensured itself at least one hand on the digital machine dial.
2. Merck: Though Merck has taken a bit more of a “big talking head” approach, they reply to tweeters frequently and quickly. In some ways the anonymity of the person physically tweeting provides a sense of brand voice solidarity, i.e. what is tweeted is Merck. Though being as conversational as Merck is has the potential to become a regulatory precipice, Merck is quite calculated in deciding with whom they engage, sticking mostly to responding to newly hired employees and thanking celebrity or advocacy partners.
3. Boehringer Ingelheim: Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) not only understands the importance of engaging its communities via social media, but leads its peers by example. I think that of these 3 companies, BI has grasped how to best ensure its voice be heard. They engage directly with digital healthcare leaders by sharing studies, blog posts, key opinion leaders’ thoughts and interweave their own news once they’re sure they have people’s attention. This information, however, is not limited to medical studies and the success of their own clinical trials, but instead focuses on how healthcare can (and should) use social media for campaigns. The subject matter of BI’s tweets is dominated by re-sharing what its heard. So, they listen.
BI spends a lot of their time listening. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (the authors of Groundswell ) say that to effectively engage in the changed media landscape, a company must first listen. As they say, “your brand is what your customers say it is. And in the groundswell [the digital social phenomenon]where they communicate with each other, they decide. ” (Groundswell p. 78).
Now to see how BI will join the social discussion by talking…