A new report looks at the effectiveness of dedicated UK twitter accounts for pharma companies

Bayer, MSD and AbbVie have topped  a new ranking of pharma companies’ UK Twitter usage.

The Pharma Social Media Series: UK Twitter Ranking – Summer 2018, developed by Owen Health and firstlight PR, takes a snapshot of the Twitter performance of 11 pharma companies who have dedicated UK accounts – AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Daiichi Sankyo, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi and Teva.

“We wanted to see whether pharma companies were using social as a part of a multichannel marketing strategy or not,” says Steve Sponder, director of Owen Health. “And we wanted to see the impact this was having on the quality of their social channels. We’ve seen first-hand the challenges presented by the social platforms morphing into paid platforms for many global brands from other industries e.g. retail, entertainment and automotive, and felt it was time to delve deeper into pharma.”

Bayer, MSD and AbbVie ranked highest with overall performance scores of 66, 65 and 59 respectively (see table below).

These scores were calculated using various data points which take the following attributes into consideration:

  • Authority – Is the Twitter account verified?
  • Reach – How many people are following the account?
  • Active – How frequent are the tweets?
  • Engagement – How much response are the tweets receiving?
  • Influence – How much influence does the account have?

Only Bayer, MSD, AbbVie and Roche had verified accounts. The companies with the highest reach were Sanofi and Bayer with 4,164 and 4,084 followers respectively. Novartis, AstraZeneca and Pfizer were ahead of the pack on account activity, which was measured by the number of tweets posted over the course of a month. The most influential UK companies on Twitter were Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca and Novartis, measured using the Klout system, which uses data points such as follower count, retweets, list memberships, how many spam/dead accounts are following a company, how influential the people who retweet the companies were and unique mentions (see table below).

Engagement, meanwhile, was measured by creating a weighted formula, incorporating likes, retweets and replies, which produced an engagement score for each account (see graph below). This score was normalised, taking into account the number of followers and the volume of tweets sent during the period. Pfizer, MSD and Teva had the highest engagement scores via this method, and placed well ahead of the other companies.

Sponder says that content about patient conditions received the most engagement: “This took various shapes, from supporting various charities to Pfizer’s request for tech start-ups with a passion for patients to join their HealthcareHub.

“This showed us that companies need to ensure that the content strategy and the content represents the values and purpose of that company – it must be genuine. That might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. Then bringing the content to life through interesting and distinctive storytelling makes a real difference. Finally, don’t think the job is done when the content is developed. Meaningful budgets for content promotion isn’t a nice to have, it’s a necessity.”

He adds: “Vanity metrics of community size could actually be detrimental to the brand if there isn’t the commitment to ensure the community can be engaged. We saw in our research that there is a correlation between large community size and low engagement, hence the danger of ‘zombie communities’. If there is no commitment to investment in engaging a large community then maybe an alternative strategy should be considered.

“We saw a similar ‘zombie community’ effect in our Global Pharma Twitter Ranking earlier in the year. However, an interesting comparison between the two rankings was whether the company had decided to have a separate UK Twitter account or not and if they did, how different the performances were between the global and UK Twitter profiles. This would suggest that a best practice global model has yet to be agreed across the industry.”

As such, the report concludes that the best approach is for companies to put the interests of their target audiences at the centre of a social media strategy, whereas broadcasting information with no thought adds little value for the company or the audiences they are trying to reach.

“Too many [companies] seem to struggle with their identity and purpose,” the report says. “Committing to a robust content marketing plan, which delivers relevant and distinctive content for their UK Twitter account is vital and can be done at scale and in a cost-effective manner. Working smarter not harder is true when it comes to Twitter content.

“Without this they’re just playing lip service to social; at best missing opportunities and at worst damaging their corporate brand.”