As a highly regulated industry, the pharmaceutical sector was very slow to embrace social media and given the very slow and highly restrictive guidance put out by FDA on that topic, branded participation – particularly on Twitter – is going to be challenged moving forward. That said, there has been a great deal of pharma activity in social media. The challenge is sometimes keeping track of it all.
As a small contribution to doing so, a few years ago, I began recording industry social media activity of which I become aware in a sortable database. The platforms tracked include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest. Characteristics tracked include the nature of the social media effort – corporate, philanthropic, disease specific, career, etc and information such as the company, the regularity of updates and other material factors. By no means is this representative of the entire universe of social media activity, but provides insight into a healthy amount of it to gain insight into who is doing what and how often.
One of the characteristics tracked for Twitter is the number of followers and KLOUT scores. Because there are currently 275 Twitter feeds tracked, keeping up with those numbers is a bit of a chore (if anyone knows of an automatic way to track this, I would be indebted) so once a year with assistance we go back and update the numbers by taking a census. The last time these numbers were entered was July 2013. This year, during September and October 2014, the numbers were updated and they were significantly different:
Here one can see that the number of twitter feeds being tracked only increased from 264 to 275. Some feeds have disappeared and some are merely abandoned. (Note that the 275 number includes a large number of inactive properties). The number of twitter feeds followed by industry barely increased. But perhaps most noteworthy was the rise in the number of followers for industry feeds – which more than doubled from 770,006 in 2013 to 1,505,084 in 2014. Note that these feeds do include some OTC products, as well as device manufacturers.
The rise in followers reinforces the notion that Twitter is an important medium for getting and receiving news and despite the fact product-related news has been effectively regulated out of Twitter, if the numbers continue to increase, it will signal that people still want to hear what industry has to say.