Pharma and FDA Twitter Tips

Sorry again for the lack of posts the past week.  If you flu-shot advocates would like to say “I told you so” please feel free….

Some people like lists.  Some don’t.  I am a fence-sitter.  But I certainly don’t like long ones, and so I propose a relatively short one.

I thought I would take the opportunity provided by a new pharma twitter hatchling from the past few days – @sanofiaventisUS to provide a few tips on what I think help support the growth of a Twitter feed.  These tips are not rocket science, but looking at the list of pharma companies that are on Twitter and examining the different styles, not everyone is maximizing their potential.

A month ago, I posted a table that showed all of the pharma twitter feeds that I was aware of and provided information on the numbers of followers, the numbers of lists and the KLOUT ranking given them that I called TWANK, for Twitter Ranking.  This turned out to be wildly popular, I’m happy to say – getting a lot of commentary and a good many re-tweets on my own Twitter feed.  In putting that together, I was able to see all kinds of ways that pharma companies are, and aren’t, doing a good job of nurturing their little bird – or in the case of some companies, birds.  (Which raises a query – what does one call multiple twitter feeds – a gaggle?  a flock?).  In reviewing the list I saw some best practices and so here are a few tips that came to mind:

  1. Follow others.  There are a number of companies that follow no other feeds – not even their own.  One company I started following sent me a Direct Message (DM) that said something to the effect that “we are not yet able to communicate directly with others…” ignoring the fact that they had just communicated directly with another.  Remember, this is social media.  If you don’t want to participate, or feel for some reason you cannot, then you are pretty much just talking at the rest of us – something you could accomplish from your Web site.   Just talking at us followers is ok, but we may not listen as much as if you actually engaged us.  And granted, we may re-tweet you when you say something interesting, but you might as well be sending it out by RSS feed if you aren’t going to participate.  You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you, but there are a number of people you should probably be following, and you know who they are.
  2. Follow Yourself.  If you have multiple twitter feeds, follow your other feeds. This helps all boats rise in rankings.  Even FDA has figured this out and their multiple feeds all seem to follow one another.  It is also a good way for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing.
  3. Content with a Point.  The whole point about Twitter is not to merely speak directly to your own followers who know you, but more importantly to reach your followers’ followers, who may not know you, but might be interested in you.  If you are tweeting obvious company lines, or only things about you, your appeal is going to be limited and the level of re-tweeting may be somewhat restricted.  You are going to have to broaden your horizons and provide links to materials that may not necessarily just be about your blog posting that day, or what your CEO had for lunch.  And another point about the re-tweeting thing – if you use all 140 characters up, it is very hard for those of us who want to retweet you to do it without truncating your message in someway.  Learn shorthand.  Think B4 U rite! You need to get re-tweeted to get introduced to new people.
  4. Use Hashtags.  Hashtags classify information so that it can be picked up by someone looking for that subject matter.  Your use of them is another way to get your material and your feed in front of people who otherwise might not know you. So someone who follows a diabetes hashtag (#diabetes) might not know that your company has a feed or a diabetes drug coming out and isn’t following you on Twitter.  But when you tweet “New #diabetes data from ACME Co.” then they see it and may start following you.  Hashtags introduce your feed to whole communities that might not otherwise know you exist.
  5. Re-Tweet Others.  I know it is scary, but it can actually be done.  Re-tweeting others, like following others, is kind of a pre-requisite in a medium that is about being social.  It is not all about you.  You may not want to re-tweet other companies, or even Eye on FDA, but the CDC and NIH are probably pretty safe bets.  Re-Tweeting puts your numbers up a bit, gets you noticed more, and provides a service to those of us who follow you.

I promised a short list, and that’s it.  And if  you want to go to a single spot to see what all the pharma twitter feeds are saying and just that, visit the @eyeonfda FDA Twitter feed list) which has been highly expanded since the TWANK posting of January 5.  And an updated TWANK list with the expansion of feeds (now nearly 100) will be out soon.

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