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We're playing catch up on Twitter, admits Pfizer

Published on 30/09/09 at 01:56pm

Pfizer has joined other leading pharma companies by launching its own official company Twitter update.

The company began using its Twitter account @Pfizer_news in July, and now has 2,300 followers, who are kept up to date with a range of postings, from standard press releases to rebuttals of inaccurate media reports and replies to Twitter users.

The service is maintained by the media relations department at Pfizer in the US, and is overseen by Ray Kerins, the company's vice president of worldwide communications.

Kerins has conceded that the company had been slow to join Twitter compared to some of its rivals.

"We're playing catch up in this space," he told US-based PR week in a video interview. "Don't pat us on the back just yet."

Twitter was first set up in 2006, but has enjoyed massive growth and popularity this year, with a handful of forward-thinking pharma companies using the service since 2008.

Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson are among the most prominent twitterers in the industry.

Novartis has the most followers, but the other two companies have a more well-known Twitter profile, tweeting almost daily, and engaging in chat with the wider Twitter community.

Pfizer's tweets consist mainly of news links and some links to interviews, including video interviews with senior members of its communications team.

One compelling reason for Pfizer to join Twitter was the presence of a bogus Twitter page @pfizer which seemed to be the company's official site, but is in fact run by an unidentified third party.

Pfizer's Twitter dilemma

A video on US news site Advertising Age called 'Pfizer's Twitter Dilemma', features Kerins talking about the company's launch on Twitter.

Kerins said: "Twitter for us is an opportunity. I consider it a newsfeed. It's as big as a newswire as far as I'm concerned," he said.

But he expressed frustration about the lack of guidelines for pharmaceutical companies on what they can and can't do on social media.

Kerins said Pfizer will use the page mainly to disseminate information to its followers. He was keen to stress Pfizer was not trying to use Twitter to comment on products.

"We may never have pages for products," he said. "If in a controlled vehicle like advertising there's a challenge, how the hell do you do it in this environment?"

He said the company was keen to listen to the Twitter dialogue - for example, the company recently changed its profile picture in response to negative comments from followers.

The company has also engaged in dialogue with followers, confirming to one that the company encourages its staff to follow its Twitter stream.

Kerins said: "There's so much more we can do with it, we know that. I don't want to pretend we're doing everything right because we're probably not. But I would ask anyone following us to be patient, because we are listening and we're going to try and do it right."

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