Twitter taps Healthline Media veteran to oversee fast-growing U.S. health vertical

Twitter has hired Healthline Media veteran Lisa Bookwalter to oversee one of its fastest-growing verticals, health and wellness, which means pharma could soon have more digital ad options in its future.

Bookwalter takes over as director of Twitter client services for health in the U.S., having previously led a sales team at Healthline, where she worked with clients including Eli Lilly and Takeda.

The health and wellness team has been in place at Twitter for five years and has grown quickly in that time. “There is an incredible appetite in the industry to put a stake in the ground when it comes to digital advertising: digital advertising in pharma and healthcare is expected to rise to $10 billion in 2020,” Managing Director Brad Keown said.

He added that with Bookwalter’s proven record, Twitter will “be able to offer digital solutions that match the industry’s hunger.”

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

Bookwalter said she sees plenty of opportunity for pharma on Twitter.

“As consumer expectations continue to push pharma marketers to engage with patients as people, not just as patients, social is critical,” she said in an email. “Twitter—the platform where everything happens first—has a unique opportunity to be the platform for not only product launches, etc., but also the platform where health conversations start. This intersection is a game-changer for pharma.”

Pharma companies, however, have typically shied away from Twitter for brands. Its 280-character count isn't usually enough for full risk disclosure, and hand slaps from the FDA's ad police for infractions have added to the reticence.

However, more and more pharmas are trying to figure out how to use the channel, aware that's where their customer base is. On Twitter, ad units such as In-Stream Video Ads can be used to drive awareness or website visits in a premium video environment.

RELATED:  Want to score on social, pharma? Follow Sanofi's lead, experts say

And they’re posting—news, partnerships, research results, recruiting messages, philanthropic efforts and patient stories. The largest 10 pharma companies have in the past month posted at least weekly and, more often, daily on their Twitter corporate or news accounts.

In its announcement of the Bookwalter appointment, Twitter pointed out another benefit for pharma. People often use Twitter to share health stories, making it a good place for healthcare brands to listen to patients.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to remove a reference to a Twitter ad unit that is no longer available.