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For pharma, finding followers and enlightenment on Twitter will amount to the same thing

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There are three steps to Twitter self-enlightenment for any given pharma company.

Firstly: it needs to ask itself why is it interested in using social media in the first place. What does it hope to achieve? Are the desired outcomes that it has alighted upon appropriate, or are they actually too informed by previous business practices? Upon what basis will it measure its success? What timeline is it working to?

Secondly: can the company in question take a long look at itself and demonstrate to its own satisfaction that it is currently prioritising listening to its customers as a key strategic requirement? If not, can it iterate the reasons why it believes it needs to start doing so? What led it to these conclusions? Can it foreground these beliefs in order to demonstrate its enduring relevance, validity, and values? At what point did it become comfortable with the idea that what it will be doing is tantamount to relinquishing control of its brand? Is it doing this because it believes it will augment its reputation and bolster its sales? Does it understand and agree with the precept underpinning the W20 space that the customer, not the company, owns the brand? Is it prepared to act upon (or at least react to) incoming requests? Is it comfortable with affording its customers access to tools that will potentially reorient (or perhaps completely invert) its key messages?

When the company in question can knock all these questions for 6, they’re nearly ready to move on to the third, and most difficult, tier of self-assessment of their W20 readiness:

Who are their in-house W20 brand advocates? Are they capable of or  happy to drive this difficult – but necessary – process forward? If they don’t have any, are they amenable to entrusting elements of their strategy to thought leaders from other verticals? Assuming they can find appropriate project leaders, is senior management comfortable with these individuals being empowered as the human voice of their brand, or – for higher stakes still – their company? Are they sure that they have not simply nominated the ‘correct’ senior internal candidates, who will almost certainly not be the most adept at leading this initiative effectively? Are the appointed individuals already connected with their brand advocates? Similarly, do they know who will come out against them and view their new W20 identity as an opportunity to shoot them down in flames? What are their contingency strategies to deal with such a turn of events?

So, you’ve stepped into the W20 arena. How are you going to target followers? How are you going to entice followers to follow you?

What advice would you offer Pharma people trying to find relevant people to follow on Twitter?

Finding relevant people to follow is far from easy, although as the healthcare community of Twitter gathers critical mass and begins to connect effectively, it only takes one follow and a post to the effect that ‘company x has a Twitter account!’ for your account to acquire a centre of gravity. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to go looking for followers proactively as well.

Newly-registered Twitter users frequently opine something along the lines of ‘OK, so I’ve joined – now what do I do?’. Some suggestions would be to use Twellow and Omnee to identify like-minded folks. The former scrapes Twitter users’ bios (and pharma companies should therefore make sure that the keywords they would like to be associated with their brands feature in their own Twitter bios) whilst Omnee is an organic search directory that allows users to tag search terms that they align themselves with with. Its designer, @markhawker, works in healthcare informatics, so it is not surprising that it should be a happy hunting ground for the health-oriented Twitter user.

Next, pharma tweeters they should scan Twitter search using a hashtag-delimited advanced search in order both to see who is talking about them, and to gauge the quality, as well as the tenor, of discussion. They should use the same feature, using date and hashtag search restrictions, to identify Twitter users who are discussing keywords they are interested in associating themselves with, as well as to scan conference back-channel live tweets and pre- and post-show debates. This is a great – if also on occasion a rather chastening – way of seeing whether your message is being well-received, entirely ignored, and laughed out of the venue.

What advice would you give Pharma people trying to get people to follow them?

Don’t broadcast. Obey the 80/20 law balancing professional and relevant social posting. Do not discount the importance of the latter: your followers want to interact with you, not be lectured by you. Afford your potential followers the opportunity to engage productively with you to your mutual benefit. Brand-interest can only be generated: it cannot be bought. The empathy of the professional W20 community can only be elicited through deeds and actions, not an appeal to their sympathies. Above all else, be honest: the W20 space is transparent, candid and unforgiving.

My thanks to @PharmaExecDigi for inviting me to order my thoughts around these questions, and Altitude for leading me to consider inverting the telescope and reconstituting some of these concepts in the interrogative. Hat-tip for the image.

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