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Pharma must stay the course on Twitter as docs are not abandoning the platform yet: Report

November 19, 2022
Life sciences

Like it or loathe it, and whatever its new direction, Twitter is still a powerful platform for doctors, and pharma should not abandon the troubled social media site yet, according to a new report from healthcare consultants at ZoomRx.

That’s a big statement, coming a week after Eli Lilly lost around $15 billion from its market cap after a fake account tweeted out that “insulin was free now.” The saga forced Lilly to apologize and, according to reports from The Washington Post, pull back ads from the platform and pause its comms strategy.

The fake account took advantage of the Twitter Blue subscription service, an idea from new owner Elon Musk that charges people $8 a month to have the blue tick on their account. The checkmark used to mean the account had been verified and authenticated. Under the new service, though, the supposed verification badge could be bought by anyone.

The fake Lilly account had that tick, leading it to garner thousands of views and likes as it looked like the real thing.

But ZoomRx’s quick-fire report shows that while what happened to Lilly may have irked pharma, doctors—a core target on Twitter for the industry—are not leaving and therefore neither should they.

ZoomRx tapped its social media scraping artificial intelligence tool to look at the impact of the Lilly/Twitter debacle on physicians’ attitude and usage of Twitter. The firm found that 75% of physicians—via a sample size of 566 doctors—who were active during oncology conferences continued to post on Twitter over the past week.

“Despite the frustration with Elon Musk, it seems physicians aren’t quitting,” the report, shared with Fierce Pharma Marketing, found.

Looking through examples of some leading doctors on the site found that “despite expressing frustration, physicians—especially digital opinion leaders—have decided to stay, because Twitter has become essential to help patients, advance science and fight misinformation.”

ZoomRx’s advice? “Pharma firms that manage to maintain positive relations with the #MedTwitter community, even during this chaos, would end up increasing their brand equity.”

There was similar advice from the FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., who earlier this month—and before the Lilly fiasco—implored users to not “abandon Twitter” and that he “believes in the power of social media being used for good.”

Twitter Blue is currently paused while Musk plans the launch a new version of the paid service, targeted for the end of the month. There may be bigger problems, however, as rumors swell that many of the core Twitter staff are exiting the company in droves, leaving the site’s future in the balance.

By Ben Adams


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