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Twitter for Pharma Marketers: Learning from 7 Best in Class Tactics

From its controversial decision to double character counts to reports of stagnant growth, Twitter is again in the spotlight. Yet despite these mixed messages, the platform is an increasingly significant tool for pharma marketers to engage audiences while promoting campaign goals. In fact, Twitter’s health and wellness director, Mary Ann Belliveau, recently said the most growth the platform has seen in the category has been from the “pharmaceutical companies – both on the pharma side and the consumer product side.”

A recent Nielson Social Media Report cited Twitter as the second top social platform for desktop and third for smartphones. As many Rx patient audiences skew older, it’s also worth noting that of Twitter’s user base, twenty percent are ages 50-64 while ten percent are over 65. Not all your target audience lives on Twitter, but a portion do.

When used alongside other channels, Twitter can reinforce existing messages and amplify assets developed for paid channels at no added cost. Compared to other social platforms, Twitter is also the place to share quick, real-time updates. When leveraged effectively, Twitter can provide meaningful engagement with patients, customers and physicians on many fronts, with a timeliness few competitors can rival.

Let’s take a look at seven best in class tactics to make the most of this valuable tool.

#1: Integrate Community Polls

While specialist platforms like Sermo for physicians have long been making use of polls and other methods to help inform treatment decisions, Pharma is just starting to learn that empathetic engagement is critical to building community and pharma brands are reflecting this more and more on Twitter. In honor of Pain Awareness Month, Pfizer and Eli Lilly & Company offered their community an opportunity to voice their opinion with the below questions:

This approach clearly resonates, garnering a combined 12,971 votes (and likely countless more free impressions). Other pharma companies, such as Takeda and Merck, use polls to gauge audience knowledge on a particular disease area:

Both polls reflect a quick way to engage your community along with valuable insight into what matters to your audience. It’s worth noting the greater participation seen in the Pfizer and Lilly polls, both of which tap patient and community perspective, inviting patients to share rather than testing their knowledge.

#2: Own the destination

When their new diabetes monitoring device was approved by the FDA, Abbott had already launched a multichannel strategy with Twitter playing an important role. When announcing the news on their PR account (@AbbottNews) and product account (@FreeStyleDiabet), both tweets linked to the same landing page featuring a user-friendly email sign-up to learn more.

With consistent messaging leading to the same owned destination, Abbott is capturing more impressions than it would with one account. Also of note is that Abbott created their product account as early as September of 2015, enabling them to build a following of 17K + prior to product launch.

#3: Use influencers to promote events + spread awareness

American Cancer Society tapped singer Normani Kordei to generate awareness for their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events. Using a digital influencer allows ACS to appeal to a larger demographic and to foster greater trust with their audience as the endorsement is coming from someone otherwise unrelated to the brand or product. The resulting content often feels more authentic, especially when the messaging is conveyed in the influencer’s own words.


Individuals, however, don’t have to be celebrities to be influential. A patient or caregiver with firsthand experience and knowledge on a condition and its therapies can be equally, if not more, resonant. GSK turned to Joan, a once non-compliant patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), to share a glimpse of her life with managed COPD. While the #LiveEveryBreath hashtag promotes GSK’s Ellipta Inhaler, Joan’s story feels far from promotional with the tweet thoughtfully linking to a GSK landing page with other patient stories.


#4: Leverage video whenever possible

When it comes to consuming content, people are choosing video more than any other medium. What marketers may not realize is that, of all digital platforms, Twitter ranks number one for discovering new videos (vs. seeking out something specific as is the case with Youtube). Twitter also revealed video as its most shared media type, citing Tweets with videos as 6x more likely to be retweeted than Tweets with photos and 3x more than Tweets with GIFs.

For pharma marketers, video can convey serious topics in ways that feel approachable and engaging while also covering more information. Bayer Pharma recently shared a 20 second video to spread awareness on hepatocellular carcinoma whereas a video posted on Gilead Science’s Twitter encourages Baby Boomers to get tested for hepatitis C.

When it comes to integrating engaging paid ads, pharma should consider adopting Twitter’s conversational ads. Exclusive to Twitter, these video-based ads heighten consumer engagement by including call to action buttons with customizable hashtags. As a testament to the fact that pharma marketers are still underutilizing Twitter, I wasn’t able to find an example of a brand leveraging these new ad formats.

#5: Master the hashtag

It’s occasionally forgotten that hashtags should be a source of connectivity, community and a way to unify messaging across platforms. Take on Typhoid, a program of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, introduced the #TakeOnTyphoid hashtag to spread unbranded awareness for typhoid conjugate vaccines. Its relevance garnered significant free impressions by Gavi, the Global Health Organization, the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland and the Defeat DD Initiative, to name but a few.


#6: Maintain a nimble content calendar

Planning ahead and maintaining a content calendar will help your brand capitalize on upcoming events and happenings, but remaining nimble and picking up on trends and breaking news is equally important. After the hurricanes impacting much of the Southeast, Pfizer tweeted the below message to followers in English and Spanish, which showed concern and empathy, while likely increasing impressions and brand awareness.


#7: Acknowledge your community

Integrating the latest Twitter trends is often a slow process, but replying to your followers shouldn’t be. Set aside time every day to acknowledge and respond to questions and feedback on your page. If you can’t address their unique concern, direct them to someone who can. Creating engagement is a dual effort, so also make time to like or retweet relevant tweets from your followers. Your brand will stay top of mind and be seen as responsible and timely.


These seven tactics can enhance any existing or new campaign, but this list doesn’t stop here. What have you found drives engagement and community on Twitter?

Is your brand using Instagram Stories? Check out its four key advantages for Pharma Marketers.

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