When it comes to digital and social media, is Big Pharma finally getting it? Yesterday, AstraZeneca launched a branded YouTube channel for its asthma drug Symbicort, joining the ranks of Abbott, GSK, J&J, and most recently, Santofi-Aventis. This news arrived just in time for the 8th Annual ePharma Summit, where industry experts are gathered to share their views on social media, blogs, and user-generated content.
On day two of the conference, I got the opportunity to sit down with Shwen Gwee, lead business analyst, health informatics and new media, business solutions for Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and get his thoughts about AZâ€™s recent launch. Specifically, we talked about why, despite having a Twitter account, the company chooses not advertise its YouTube presence on it.
Gwee gives several reasons for the companyâ€™s hesitance. First, Twitter is a two-way engagement tool, meaning, as soon as you post something people can access it. Furthermore, space is limited to 140 characters, so a companyâ€™s standard press release would not fit. Finally, nobody has a full policy yet for how they want to use this online medium.
Also Twitter accounts come with adjustable settings. For example, you can set one so that people can only follow you. This doesnâ€™t mean that messages are private, but rather that certain individuals cannot message you directlyâ€”what they send you could be viewed by anyone. â€œThe biggest challenge people face with corporate communications is its standardized-process type of review. Twitter is a new medium for putting a template out there; unlike a press release, you will get responsesâ€”itâ€™s not a broadcast.â€
Gwee noted Novartis and Boelinger Ingelheimâ€™s transparency on Twitter: â€œThe important thing is that they are on there,â€ he says. â€œI definitely see a trend for pharma adopting Twitter, and I think it will come from corporate communications. First, pharma has to remember that it is not just another broadcast mechanism, itâ€™s a conversation.â€
One tip Gwee has for pharma companies is to start internally. There are several Twitter tools that a company can try within its organization before opening up to the rest of the world.
For a review of 19 enterprise-level microsharing tools (aka Twitter!), check out Yammer at www.yammer.com or the Pistachio consultant blog at http://pistachioconsulting.com