Twittering FDA – An Analysis of FDA’s Twittering Activity

 The Food and Drug Administration has been dipping its toe into the proverbial social media waters. In this space, I've encouraged FDA to become more involved in Facebook as a means of pushing information out to consumers rather than waiting for consumers to come to an overly complex and cumbersome Web site.

But the FDA has been more adventuresome when it comes to Twitter.  In fact, the agency has, to my knowledge __ Twitter feeds now operating:

  • @FDAcdrhIndustry – Official information and news for the FDA-regulated Medical Devices & Radiation-emitting Products industry;
  • @FDARecalls – Get notified about US. FDA recalls;
  • @FDAWomen – Women's health information from FDA;
  • @FDAanimalhealth –  Information and Updates from FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine;
  • @FDA_Drug_Info – Latest drug information from FDA.

I used the Twitalyzer tool that I have used previously to measure how twitter feeds are doing, most notably lately in my report on members of Congress using Twitter.  Here is what I found:

Feed Followers Following Lists Impact Engagement Influence Generosity Clout FDAcdrhindustry 22 1340 101 0.6 0 0.4 0 0.5 FDArecalls 14 31675 1175 7.6 0 1.9 0 4.5 FDAWomen 125 853 125 0.4 0 0.2 100 0.3 FDAanimalhealth 14 424 33 0.7 0 1 33.3 1.2 FDA_Drug_Info 8 4998 398 1.4 0 0.9 0 0.9

What the table shows is that, while FDARecalls is certainly the most impactful and followed feed, they are still lacking somewhat.  

One doesn't expect the FDA to be tweeting on the order of someone like Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) but there is room for some improvement.  Most notably, in its reticence to engage, FDA has taken the "social" out of "social media".  With the exception of the Women's Health and Animal Health feeds, there has been no re-tweeting or citing others in their tweets.  The feeds also tend to follow only other government agencies and FDA feeds.  They may want to consider following other feeds related to their subject matter.  For example, if Animal Health followed veterinary association feeds and veterinary schools – and if Drug Info followed the New England Journal of Medicine (@NEJM) or US Pharmacopeia (@USPharmacopeia) or Pink Sheet (@PinkSheetLauren), they might boost their numbers, get interesting information that could be reliably re-tweeted, and engage more thoroughly.

They are also not tweeting enough.  I get many more email alerts about these topics than I do tweets.  They should boost up their chirping.  And, I hope with humility, that this posting will boost their followings as well.  

Still, it is great to see FDA taking this step and one hopes the trend will expand and continue.  Who knows, maybe DDMAC will start tweeting.  It would be faster than the Guidance development process.  

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