AstraZeneca hosted the first live pharmaceutical Twitter chat this past week. Leading up to the event, bloggers and tweeters created a substantial buzz on the web. They wondered how successful/safe this event would be given the lack of FDA regulations. AZ’s main objective (among others) was to receive feedback on Prescription Savings Programs. Although this seems innocent, many were holding their breath due to the potential of the chat going sour.
The format was simple. AZ led discussion by tweeting questions and participants gave their responses. In an attempt to have two-way discussion, followers would occasionally return fire at AZ. Depending on the risk factor, AZ may choose to answer or not answer these questions.
Since AZ had chosen the open forum of twitter, there was a concern for “hijackers” or individuals who take over discussion by asking off topic questions. Although AZ tried to combat this with an introductory disclaimer, hijacking attempts were in abundance.
At times, hijacking attempts were so outright and obnoxious that I couldn’t help but laugh. My hunch is that some of these people were being over the top on purpose in order to test the waters. I would guess they wanted to see how far AZ would go.
Was the AstraZeneca chat successful?
In regards to AZ utilizing social media, the chat reminded me of Alex Rodriguez’s steroid press conference in 2009. Questions were answered, but more sprang up as a result. The chat succeeded in proving that the use of social media is possible and safe. But the question becomes how practical was the use of social media?
By hiding behind the veil of Twitter, AZ was able to pick and choose, or simply ignore questions that didn’t fit their agenda. Their cold shoulder treatment served as both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, AZ was able to avoid trouble by dodging touchy questions, but on the other hand, they were forced to shut out a lot of their followers who had decent questions. One frustrated tweet said “I would like to thank @AstraZeneca #rxsave @TonyJewell @ACUnderserved for ducking important questions & wasting an hour of peoples time.”
While there is some truth to this statement, it can’t be expected of AZ to answer the “important” questions through twitter; at least not at this time. In AZ’s defense, they did the most they could by taking the least amount of risk.
Was this a breakthrough in the social media realm for pharmaceutical companies? Probably not, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. It seemed as though AZ’s objective was to gain information rather than give it. While AZ did answer some questions, they were restricted to scratching the surface. This is the main problem with social media – there’s only so much that can be done without taking risks.
At the end of the chat, AZ posed a final question regarding the success of its twitter event. It was almost unanimously agreed that this live chat was a great idea and had great value. Judge for yourself and check out the chat transcript here.
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