Tweet up? Twitter move to 280 characters opens new frontiers for pharma, agency says

Twitter birds
Twitter doubled its tweet character count limit to 280 last week, opening doors for more and better pharma marketing, one agency says.

Will pharma learn to love Twitter now that it’s doubled its character limit to 280? Last week, the popular social media platform announced it would offer all users twice as much space, and at least one pharma ad agency says industry marketers should be glad.

The higher count will allow pharma more freedom and flexibility in using Twitter while still staying FDA compliant, according to Intouch Solutions social media manager Andrew Grojean.

“It’s not a cure-all because it’s only 140 more characters, but it does give us the flexibility to add more language that’s consumer friendly and familiar to them. Historically, Twitter has been pretty hostile for pharma,” he said.

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One of the agency’s first clients to use the expanded count was Novartis with its cancer clinical trials handle @NovartisOncCT, which is separate from the corporate Novartis handle. Several tweets last week about trials went over the previous 140 limit and included links out to government websites. That ability to give users more information and context is important, Grojean said.

It’s not nearly the once-promised 10,000 character bonanza that Twitter toyed with previously and had pharma managers hopeful. But the space bump is still good for the industry.

It will likely take time for pharma marketers to widely use the 280 counts because of medical legal approvals, but companies should start thinking about how to use the expanded platform. Twitter may still not work best for branded products with full risk and benefit statements, but the extra space means extra real estate for fair balance, as well as more content possibilities to consider, such as in disease awareness marketing or for customer service to answer user questions without a redirect.

“We’re going to start to see tweets from pharma that include an image, a link, a message, and a quote that provide fuller content and context, instead of having to choose one or two of those to include,” Grojean said.

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The new character count goes hand-in-hand in with Twitter’s overall strategy over the past few years to soften character counts in general. Brands can now add up to four images—and gifs, videos and polls—that don’t count as characters, while character counts don’t apply anymore in direct messages and handles aren’t counted in response tweets.

Grojean did offer some advice for using longer tweets. First, keep in mind that just because pharma marketers can tweet 280 characters, it doesn’t mean they always should. Another thing to be aware of is adding too many hashtags. The careful use of just one or two relevant ones will work best, he said, and marketers should fight the temptation to use 10 hashtags to get noticed by a wider audience.

“Over time, users will respect the restraint of not overusing hashtags. At the end of the day, this is still about building relationships and they will appreciate the better experience,” Grojean said.