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Using Twitter To Create & Inform Communities


Let’s get really wacky. Let’s figure out how to use Twitter to help a Big Pharma company. That should be an interesting challenge.

Everybody who uses it tends to fall in love with Twitter, and meanwhile everyone seems to pretty much despise Big Pharma … is there a twitterific way for one of these monolithic drug companies to soften our distaste?

First let’s pick a Big Pharma company. I’ll choose Pfizer.

Now let’s look at some of the diseases that Pfizer drugs try to tackle. “Clinical Depression?” That works. Depression seems to be on the rise. Pfizer offers a drug called Sinequan to help manage clinical depression. A quick Google Blog Search reveals over 12,000 hits mentioning this drug. That’s enough critical mass to warrant a campaign like the one below.

Now, on to Twitter. (I need to assume that you are familiar with Twitter. If not there are many posts out there that can explain it all to you.)

If we’re a marketer from Pfizer, we can create a new Twitter account called “twitter.com/sinequan.”

Of course we could also choose usernames like “Pfizer” (too broad) or “Depression” (too depressing – who’d want to publicly “follow” a Twitter account with a name like that?) The username “Sinequan” is kinda mysterious-sounding; only those who have a prescription (or know of friends/family on the drug) will catch on to the import of the name; and besides, we’re not trying to HIDE; we are actively trying to be FOUND – just in an unobtrusive way.

Now we go to Terraminds to conduct some twittersearches on the term “depression.” (Apparently Twitter will offer this functionality itself, soon.)

Plenty of the microposts that mention this term via Twitter are inappropriate for our purposes, e.g., “Watching an episode of Scrubs about depression” or “ Looks like that tropical depression (#10) has broken up.” We can safely ignore those.

But this same basic search quickly turns up tweets like these:

“Online test scores me at 76% for adult ADD - but notes that depression and anxiety must first be discounted as causes.”

“Feeling very down… today has not been a good depression day… Hate being a freak.”

“I’m still not in the mood to write a new sensible post because of my postnatal depression… was I even pregnant?”

(Before you bitch me out for insensitivity for “outing” these posts, please keep in mind that these were written and posted in a public forum! Clinical depression is horrible & debilitating; using the Social Media techniques described in this post is not intended to exploit but to help these sufferers.)

Ultimately (and sadly), it seems that there are scores of tweets containing the phrase “depression.”

Now, the Pfizer marketer who manages the “Sinequan” account on Twitter can begin to “follow” any & all of the twitterati who use the word “depression” in an appropriate way in their tweets. These twitterers will receive an email that “Sinequan is now following your updates on Twitter. Check out Sinequan’s profile here: http://twitter.com/sinequan.”

Most twitterati I know can hardly resist the urge to check-out the profiles of any new “followers.” At the “Sinequan” profile page, they’d find a Web link pointing to the official Sinequan webpage maintained by Pfizer. Actually I’d recommend that Pfizer create a beefed-up landing page for folks who find it via Twitter, e.g., with info on “Why is ‘Sinequan’ following me on Twitter?”, with quizzes (“How can you tell if you are clinically depressed?”) – and, with info on community resources … in other words, a page designed to help sufferers whether they become Sinequan users or not!

And “why is Sinequan following me on Twitter?” – This could be easily explained. “If you found this page because you saw that ‘Sinequan’ is now following you on Twitter,’ it’s just because you once posted a tweet that used the word ‘depression.’ If you think you might suffer from clinical depression, this site may help you. If we got it wrong, we’re really sorry: just let us know through this web form and we’ll remove our subscription to your tweets. (No need to give us any personal info beyond your public Twitter name.) Thanks!” Short, sweet, human.

(Speaking of “human” … Ideally there’s a true human personality behind the “Sinequan” account. It would be nice to introduce them via this beefed-up landing page.)

Now, what should “Sinequan” tweet about? Because once “Sinequan” has started “following” a few dozen (or few hundred!) twitterers, we can assume that a decent handful will reciprocate and start “following” Sinequan’s tweets. A community will form. A community “founded” by Pfizer’s Sinequan rep, sure, yet also a community of people with similar issues who might also start to help each other out. A virtual support group.

Here’s what Sinequan should NOT tweet about: Sinequan. If this becomes a Pfizer commercial in execution, it’s a campaign that deserves execution – as in “death.”

Rather, the Pfizer rep could use the “Sinequan” account to microblog about Clinical Depression. I envision statistics (“National survey: 25% of the population reported having symptoms severe enough to warranty the diagnosis for an anxiety disorder”), news (“Study: Employers benefit from treating depression”), helpful tidbits (“Pregnant Smokers May Suffer Depression”), etc. Any one of those tweets could change a sufferer’s life.

Will Sinequan sales soar? Not likely. Will more people who may suffer from clinical depression seek out a doctor? – maybe ask their physician about Sinequan? No doubt.

More to the point: would anyone object to this use of Twitter? If it is handled with sensitivity, I think not.

And that leads us full circle. The use of a Social Media tool like Twitter – used with subtlety, grace and in adherence to the idea of contributing to the community – could make a Big Pharma company like Pfizer look downright humane. Maybe even human. Whodathunkit??

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