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How 6 Big Pharma Companies Use Twitter to Engage with Audiences

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Pharma companies have begun to embrace different communication channels, including social media, to promote their products, present their drug development initiatives and engage with audiences worldwide.

However, make no mistake, social media is not the same for pharma companies as it is for regular users. Without proper planning, controls and staff training, firms risk fines, sanctions and worse, damage to their reputation.

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are the main online networks that pharmaceutical companies are eyeing. In this article, we’ll take a look at how pharma companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Merck and Novartis use Twitter to maintain a close connection with their existing and potential patients.


Bristol-Myers Squibb

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@bmsnews is the name of New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Twitter account. The latter was opened in April 2009 and has now has 108.000 followers. The company’s Twitter feed covers everything from drug research results and analysis, clinical collaborations with other pharma companies, to features about the company’s supply chain, and many more.



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Apart from the main @AstraZeneca Twitter account, the company also has accounts for different countries (UK, US, Canada, etc) and a Twitter profile dubbed @AZhelps. The latter is destined to help people manage and support their health more confidently. The account was opened in 2009 and it currently has over 3000 followers. On the official company account, AstraZeneca posts articles and press releases related to drug discovery, tweets from different conferences, research data, etc. The account now boasts 126.000 followers.



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@GSK was one of the first pharma companies to be on Twitter. They created their account 10 years ago, in 2007, and now have 146.000 followers. The UK-based company also has a US version @GSKUS that it started in March 2009 and has 73.800 followers. They post R&D updates, info about conferences and events that they’re attending, studies, interviews with patients and employees, etc.



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Apart from having separate Twitter accounts for countries like Belgium, France, Turkey, Germany, Austria, etc, @pfizer has an official Twitter profile started in 2009 which now has 206.000 followers and a channel dedicated to media announcements and investor communications dubbed @pfizer_news. Pfizer’s Twitter account is the most followed of all the big pharma Twitter accounts. It mainly focuses on the company’s initiatives in the greater therapeutic arena (like the #QuitSmoking one), cancer research, health tips, polls and surveys, etc.



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@sanofi created its official Twitter profile in 2009 and now has 92.600 followers. The French pharma company has more than 18 Twitter accounts. It has handles for different regions – France, Canada, and the US, as well as accounts for different units like its diabetes franchise and its Genzyme unit. On the company’s official Twitter feed you can find posts related to Big Data and health initiatives, collaborations with startups to develop new health solutions, their anti counterfeiting initiatives, vaccines research and development, etc.



Similar to the other pharma companies, Novartis has several Twitter handles, one for each division of the company (@NovartisPharma for the pharmaceutical division, @NovartisScience, @NovartisCancer) as well as the official page @Novartis. The latter was created in 2008 and has 216.000 followers.

Also, Novartis has one account devoted entirely to oncology clinical trials @NovartisOncCT that allows patients to find out if they qualify for trials.

On their general Twitter account, they update their audience on the latest drug research and development initiatives, post news related to partnerships and collaborations, etc.

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In June 2014, the FDA released its social media guidance regarding the presentation of risk and benefit information which prevents pharma companies from marketing their drugs on social media without presenting the risks associated with their use. However, pharma players have found creative and useful ways of attracting and keeping their audiences engaged. Chapeau!


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