Who's on board with Twitter's 10,000-character limit? Pharma brand managers

Doug Weinbrenner

Pharma brand managers have loved to hate Twitter--actually, they've loved to hate the FDA's restrictive rules for tweets. But all that could change soon, according to pharma marketing experts, who see Twitter's proposed 10,000-character limit as a big boost to companies' marketing efforts.

In the past, Twitter was "the least utilized and least recommended platform" for pharma marketers, Doug Weinbrenner, senior director of social media at marketing firm Intouch Solutions, told FiercePharmaMarketing. The 140-character limit, coupled with the FDA's compliance rules on risk disclosures, made it difficult, if not impossible, for marketers to get their message across.

But a 10,000-character limit puts the platform "back into their consideration set," Weinbrenner said. "Twitter revolutionizing the platform is probably one of the biggest things that happened in social media over the last year, and there's a considerable amount of interest in us being at the forefront of social pharma," he said.

Larger character limits could come in handy. In 2014, the agency issued guidance that required 6 different pieces of information in a pharma tweet, including a clear statement of indication and contraindication about a product. "A lot of those things were hard to fit into 140 characters," Andrew Grojean, social strategist at InTouch, told FiercePharmaMarketing. An FDA-compliant tweet didn't exactly "make a great user experience," he added. With a 10,000-character limit, marketers can meet regulators' requirements while also creating "something that is more engaging and beneficial to a user," Grojean said.

But the proposed change could also present some disadvantages, the pair said, especially when it comes to mobile applications. Longer tweets mean that users can only see a certain number of characters at a time. Plus, users might not be thrilled with reading 10,000 characters on a 6-inch screen, Weinbrenner pointed out.

Andrew Grojean

Overall, though, the "inherent benefit" of Twitter's latest move seems to outweigh any risks for pharma marketers, Weinbrenner said. Brand managers want to tap into users' day-to-day lives to create awareness about a product, and a long-form tweets give marketers an opportunity to reach patients in a way that they couldn't before.

"There's a stronger desire, especially within the last year or two, for pharma industry brand managers to be first, to be innovative. They know that patients are more inclined to trust a brand that is involved in spaces of life that they're involved in," Weinbrenner said. "I see, in the next several months, us bringing out our first account that runs the content with new limits."

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