Social media engagement score: 10
Facebook fans: AstraZeneca US Community Connections, 14,500; AstraZeneca Careers, 7,300
Twitter followers: @AstraZeneca, 41,400; @AstraZenecaUS, 22,400
YouTube subscribers: AstraZeneca, 296; AstrazenecaCareers, 173; AZPurpleZone, 211

AstraZeneca ($AZN) tries new things on social media. Sometimes those experiments work out well. Sometimes they even win awards. Others don't. But as the company's recent experience on Twitter shows, when AstraZeneca doesn't succeed, it tries again.

Let's start with an award. In 2012, AZ was recognized for Open Dialogue with patients, for a Twitter chat about its patient assistance programs. Over two hours online, the company sent out messages including the hashtag #rxsaves, allowing other users to follow it and respond. They did, with hundreds of messages. Patient groups, healthcare professionals and others--about 200 in all--sent in their thoughts, and AZ reps were able to respond.

AstraZeneca's Twitter activity has brought it attention--not all of it welcome
AstraZeneca's Twitter activity has brought it attention--not all of it welcome.

Because patient assistance is a "safe" topic, AstraZeneca didn't have to worry about FDA-compliant drug disclosures and the like. In fact, the company tweeted up front that it couldn't talk about specific drugs, given regulatory disclosure requirements. Fast-forward to fall of 2013, though, and a seemingly safe series of sponsored tweets got the company some unwanted FDA attention. The tweets about acid reflux--standard disease-awareness fare--actually carried along a "Twitter card" that mentioned the brand name of AZ's acid reflux drug Nexium. When Twitter users clicked on a "View Summary" link at the bottom of the tweet, that brand name showed up, but its requisite safety info did not. The company pulled the tweets and presumably learned how the Twitter cards work, because many of its recent messages have them, usually with expanded links to its LabTalk blog

Like its industry rivals, AstraZeneca uses Twitter to broadcast disease-awareness info, tout company good works, link to new content on its website and distribute embedded YouTube videos. It live-tweets from medical meetings and company events--quarterly earnings releases, for instance--using its main Twitter handles, rather than segregating those meetings under their own Twitter feeds. Its Facebook pages do the same. It's sometimes so bold as to mention a drug by name, whether by celebrating a drug-approval anniversary (Crestor) or inviting patient-assistance applications (Arimidex).

Compared with other Big Pharmas on this list, AstraZeneca has few Facebook fans, and unlike the smaller companies, it has to cover a lot of ground, from flu to cancer to mental illness. So, it's not surprising that its posts have low "like" numbers and few comments. On Twitter, the company's follower count is more on par with those of other drugmakers--higher than many, in fact--and so there are more people to retweet and respond. According to IMS Health, AZ gets an average of 2.1 retweets per tweet, among the lowest of any company on this list but much better than other drugmakers who failed to make the cut. And AZ is more apt to respond than most others; its replies-per-tweet average of 0.5 is the third-highest in the group.

- check out AZ's social media website (U.S.)

For more:
AstraZeneca helps NHS develop social media app for U.K. market


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