Fifteen Ways Pharma Can Take Advantage of Twitter’s Redesign

Twitter gave itself a facelift. You may not have noticed if you are one of the many people who mostly use Twitter on a mobile device, but Twitter users’ pages on web browsers look a little different these days. Well, they look a little different from the old Twitter pages, but they still have a strikingly similar feel to them.

“With a full header image and stats on friends and photos, I can hardly tell if I’m on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram these days,” says Mark Davis, SVP, Digital Strategist at Sudler & Hennessey. “Perhaps it’s the well-known attention and engagement that visual content garners. Or, perhaps it’s the monetization that Facebook has been able to create in it’s newsfeed that makes the revenue officers at Twitter sit up and take notice.”

Either way this is a big change for Twitter. As Davis explains, pages on were originally sparse, functional and not particularly attractive destinations. There have also been several design revisions, including one last fall just before the IPO when Twitter added photo and video previews to the feed of items that users see when they log into the service. Meanwhile, this latest redesign—and the expansion of Twitter Cards—are a major push towards increasing the visual element of the newsfeed—and keeps users on-platform by allowing them to get what they need right in the feed. Take a look at AstraZenca’s new Twitter page below to get a feel for some of the changes.


While the large header image at the top is the most obvious visual change, Twitter also made a couple of other design tweaks. For instance, Tweets that receive more engagement will now appear slightly larger, so a user’s best content is easy to find. Users also have the option to pin one of their Tweets to the top of their page so it’s easy for followers to see what they’re all about. And now Filtered Tweets allow users to choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. They also have the ability to filter between Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos or Tweets and replies.

Michael Leis, SVP, Social Strategy, Digitas Health LifeBrands feels that while one reason behind the redesign is onboarding users (either from their mobile devices or other sites), another reason is just making sure the information is clearer for people who aren’t accustomed to using Twitter. He explains that presenting information more self-evidently and clearly to people who are coming from another interface shows Twitter is just not assuming everybody already knows how to navigate Twitter information.

“The golden rule of the web is to know that people will be everywhere else except for your website,” adds Leis. “This is just Twitter acknowledging how different people are using the service, rather than necessarily just onboarding more users.”

In addition to the design changes, Twitter also is adding new advertising options including up to 15 new types of ads, according to the Wall Street Journal. These new ads include a click-to-call button that directly connects a user with the business and an email sign-up feature that lets users register for things like more information. Many of these features can be incorporated into Tweets through Twitter Cards, which the company is also planning on making a more open platform so marketers will have the creative freedom to develop their own uses for the feature.

All of these changes can be a lot to take in, however, they all offer new advantages and challenges that any marketer should be aware of if they plan on using Twitter in their marketing mix.

A New Design, A New Approach

Pharma marketers can sometimes be a little slow to adapt to change, but if they want to stay relevant and compliant on Twitter, then they must act immediately to address the new changes. These five tips can help marketers adapt and ensure they don’t get any warning letters from the FDA.

1.  Make Sure You Still Display ISI: “For pharmaceutical companies who use Twitter—especially branded Twitter handles—the most pressing issue of the redesign is how it affects Twitter profile layouts,” explains Linda O’Neill, Director, Social Media at Intouch Solutions. The removal of the background image and expansion of the header image may affect compliance as many companies have their important safety information (ISI) or other important information embedded in the background image.

Trish Nettleship, Director, Social Media & Influence at UCB, Inc., says that this is something that would need to be addressed immediately and offers a few suggestions, including displaying vital details in the header image or as a Pinned Tweet. However, we still don’t know how long the Pinned Tweets will stay in place, so that may only be a temporary solution.

2. Create a Feel For Your Brand: Leis believes that a company can best take advantage of the new visual element in the same way that we have seen many do with Facebook.

“I would start by asking the question, ‘What do you want the brand feeling to be?’ ” explains Leis. “You shouldn’t think about the cover photo purely from the brand perspective, but rather from how the brand feels and that should be in tune with how your network represents itself. And, of course, your bio should be very clear about not only who you are, but also what you deliver to people and what people can expect from following you.”

Leis also advises keeping your cover art fresh and easily sharable. This means you should change it frequently and post it to your timeline so anyone in your network can pick it up and use it as their cover photo. Nettleship adds that the greater use of images will also be beneficial for showcasing engaging content and should encourage more visually appealing content.

3. Focus On People, Not the Brand: Leis believes that even before the redesign, one of the best uses of Twitter was helping facilitate a stronger relationship between people in a network rather than trying to make a branded play. “We want to try to make the people the hero of the story,” he explains, “which is the most valuable thing we can do—and that’s typically going to happen in an unbranded scenario.”

“It’s definitely about structuring behavior and encouraging positive behaviors,” adds Leis, “and knowing that if a brand does a good job of encouraging the right behaviors and making the consumer or the person the hero of the story, that ultimately the transactions will flow from that.”

4. Know What To Pin: “With more options to customize a user’s page, companies will be able to maintain a bit more content consistency in a historically unpredictable user-generated content environment,” says Joe Arcuri, VP, User Experience at Palio+Ignite. “For instance, the Pinned Tweet feature could be a huge benefit for pharma and healthcare companies as a brand’s Twitter page could have a Pinned Tweet link directly to ISI or other important safety information that could be located at the top of the profile feed.”

Leis, however, thinks that Pinned Tweets should not just be something that the brand wants to get out there. Instead, he advises marketers to consider pinning something such as a response they gave to another user that answers an important question and can lead somebody else to a similar conversation about the topic. It could even be something that explains what the brand is doing to help people.

5. Stick With Your Media Plan: As Jim Lefevere, Head of Global Digital Marketing & Social Media at Roche explains, “I don’t think the changes they are making (or adding) dramatically changes the perspective of how to leverage Twitter within the overall planning of paid, owned and earned media.”

Even though Twitter is taking multiple steps to increase not only the active user rate but the overall experience of the platform, Lefevere says that Twitter is still just one piece to an overall bigger puzzle: How to target the right customers with the right message at the right time.

“I always think of Twitter like I think of the SXSW show,” he says. “If you’re there you get it, but that doesn’t account for the other 98% of the population that is not there and doesn’t get it. Your media planning needs to be for that 98%, not the 2%.”

New Twitter Card And Advertising Opportunities

Twitter Cards already offer marketers an opportunity to either add more content to a Tweet or to enhance the media experience by adding images, links and more. Through their expansion of Twitter Cards, the company is not only adding more advertising tools and options, but it is making the platform more open, which will allow users to create their own marketing and engagement solutions. Here are 10 examples of ways that marketers can use the new Twitter Cards and the open platform functionality to better engage with their audiences.

1. Gamification: “Gamification is an area that is gaining popularity in the pharma digital space, and the new ways to use Twitter Cards have the potential to bring about innovative social media gaming opportunities for pharma companies through unbranded awareness games and apps (and maybe even branded!),” says Ryan D. Billings, Associate Director, Social Media Strategy at Merck. “I truly hope to see gamification become more and more important for pharma marketers as they experiment with this technology to increase awareness and educate patients through fun and interactive ways.”

2. Lead Generation Card: “The addition of a new paid Lead Generation Card option gives marketers the opportunity to create a more in-depth experience for their Twitter audiences, especially appealing for opt-in campaigns,” explains O’Neill.

These cards will allow companies to collect emails and Twitter handles right from the card for easy follow up and CRM, adds Davis. “For categories with engaged communities of sufficient size, like Multiple Sclerosis, this could be a strong tactic,” he explains. “You can bet an aspiring pharma media planner is running the numbers for that right now.”

3. Displaying ISI: “One of the opportunities I see for brands with Twitter Cards is a new, improved way to display ISI in Twitter,” says Nettleship. “For example, in the past, if someone shared content from a brand’s website, only the text and a shortened URL would be displayed.  Now with the addition of Twitter Cards, you can have ISI display right in the card.”

However, Davis believes that ISI will only fit in Twitter Cards if it is extremely short, which might not work for most brands. He suggests that you could still use a Pinned Tweet or a card as a “nod” to safety.

4. App Cards: These new cards allow users to download an app right from Twitter as the card displays a prominent name, description and icon—with only one click needed to install.

“Pharma and healthcare companies will need to be creative with their ad creation, but will benefit greatly from using these highly targeted ads such as app cards—especially with the mobile user base,” explains Arcuri. “More and more pharma and healthcare companies are building apps that provide an overview of their product, and/or provide additional value to their audience. These ads could drive downloads of these apps, allowing users to learn more on their own time.”

5. Visual Posts: Twitter Photo Cards (a single image) and Gallery Cards (up to four images) offer ways for pharma marketers to increase visibility and engagement and drive traffic back to the main platform or website, according to Davis. Marketers can also extend their YouTube reach and push video content rather than still images with Player Cards. “These cards can be great additions to a content marketing strategy,” he adds. “For Twitter accounts with large followings, this may be enough, otherwise promoted Tweets or promoted accounts are another option to achieve scale.”

6. Providing Additional Content: The limited space available via Tweets does not typically offer opportunity for fair balance. That is why Davis says Tweets are best used for disease education, unbranded, corporate or potentially branded reminder ads with no indications or claims.

“However, Twitter’s expansion of card formats offers new opportunities for pharmaceutical marketers,” he says. “You can get much more content into your Tweet beyond the original 140 characters, plus users can interact with this content without having to leave Twitter or their Twitter app.”

Summary Cards and Summary Cards with Large Images are two options that can help with this as they allow for 200 characters for descriptions. While Davis says that this is still clearly not enough for fair balance, it is enough to help push your unbranded visual content.

7. A Window To Your Site: Re-emphasized Content Cards are meant to bolster in-Tweet media options, according to O’Neill. By adding HTML or meta tags to web pages users who Tweet links to the content on those pages will have a “card” added to the Tweet, visible to all of their followers.

“It’s not as easy as it seems though,” explains Arcuri. “The key here is to hold true to the content used in the Tweet so it successfully connects with the content on the site. The biggest mistake that I encounter time and time again is when I read a Tweet and go to the full site to read more, only to find that the content is totally different. That’s one sure way to lose users fast.”

8. Adverse Event Responses: Pharma companies that are willing to develop their own Twitter Cards, might want to consider building their own custom tool to manage replies to adverse events. Leis believes this could be a great way to present adverse events next steps in much clearer ways.

9. Combine Cards With Advertising: “Twitter has extremely useful targeting options for promoted Tweets, so you can combine cards with advertising,” explains Davis. For example, promoting only to females using the keyword “diabetes” or targeting those similar to the followers of the well-known diabetes blogger @sixuntilme.

10. Click-to-Call: In March, Twitter beta-tested a new click-to-call button that would allow users to call advertisers with the tap of a finger. Leis believe that this could be a vital tool to pharma companies using Twitter as it would allow for a more direct connection with audiences.

“The most powerful thing that’s really amazing about Twitter advertising,” explains Leis, “is not necessarily that’s brands are marketing their messages but a brand’s ability to actually put ad dollars behind the positive behaviors of their audience.”

The click-to-call button could offer another tool to help pharma do this, because it would show their audience that the brand is responsive to their needs. Of course, Leis says that this may not be possible until after the FDA releases its finalized post-marketing guidelines, but until then his company follows a simple participation structure: ATP. Acknowledge the user, Tie into the relevance of the community and then Provide an open end towards more conversation. No matter what, it is important to advocate for your audience and support their positive behaviors.

“The point here is that Twitter is continually looking for ways to create as much as a customized and individualized experience to behaviors as possible and that’s just fantastic for brands,” explains Leis. “As a brand, you want to be able to identify who’s in your network and how they behave so that you can support those networks and help to structure that heroic moment for your consumers. This is just another great step that Twitter has done in terms of helping brands to do just that.”


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