On Twitter, as on many social channels, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get organic engagement.  Twitter has a suite of ad offerings designed to help gain followers, video views, app downloads and more, which pharma brands have started using more as part of their social strategy. To encourage greater brand engagement, Twitter recently launched “conversational ads” that include call to action buttons with customizable hashtags.

Below is an example from Twitter showing how these ads work. When a call to action button is tapped, the tweet composer opens with a pre-populated message accompanied by the creative and hashtag buttons. The user can then personalize the tweet and share it with his/her followers, and then receives a thank you.

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A tool for biopharma?

There is no question of the value to consumer brands…but pharma?  Could pharma really use this advertising option?  While it may appear impossible or even a little anxiety provoking, closer examination reveals that it may be more feasible than we initially thought – for the right content.

Consider, for example, a disease awareness campaign in which a thought-provoking question about heart disease is posited with two options for patients to tweet and that tweet includes a link to the disease awareness web site for that campaign.

Let’s also consider the benefit for broader corporate campaigns that enable companies to directly engage potential employees for recruitment purposes or drive thought leadership.  Not to mention the potential application for philanthropy or CSR programs.

Finally, there could be great potential to use this platform at popular healthcare conferences like JP Morgan, AHA or ASCO.   Companies can pose questions to attendees and drive followers, booth visitors, presentation attendees or attendees to other company-sponsored programs.

We know what you’re thinking…this all sounds really exciting but what about our responsibility for the content pushed out by those who interact with the conversational ads?

Per the FDA draft guidance issued in January 2014, a company is generally not responsible for user generated content (UGC). This is the case even if the UGC is on the company’s social site. So a biopharma company would need to ensure that the Tweet, as well as the pre-populated response Tweets, were fully compliant. If a user then chose to revise that message this would be UGC and outside the firm’s control.  And companies would also continue to employ whatever AE monitoring protocols have been established.

Used appropriately, conversational ads may be a direct and engaging addition to a brand – or corporation’s – PESO (paid, earned, shared, owned) strategy.

Twitter is currently offering conversational ads in beta for select advertisers. If you are a W2O client and are interested in learning more, please contact your account team.

-Eileen O’Brien and Molly Stock