Roche, Twitter and One Magic Gooooal!

Posted by: in Healthcare Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends on July 8, 2010

I had to do a double-take last month when I saw this tweet come across my TweetDeck: “hopp Schwiiz!1:0 #sui“. The topic wasn’t a surprise: World Cup-related expressions of national pride were so common that they brought the Twitter servers to their knees. What was unexpected was the source: the “Go Switzerland” tweet came from traditionally buttoned up folks at Roche (@Roche_com), who usually stick to more clinically minded topics (a sample: “IL-6 plays critical role in sJIA contributing to all major features: a promising target for future therapies”).

The outbreak of World Cup fever instantly humanized the company. I am paying closer attention to them, now that I know that at least one person at Roche sees Twitter as a way to do more than just re-broadcast press releases. It’s being run by humans (even better: soccer-mad humans). That may not seem to be a high bar to clear, but few corporate feeds — especially in biopharm — manage to do it.

There is no industry in which speech is more closely regulated than pharma, so it’s understandable that many corporate Twitter feeds are bastions of conservative, approved content. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t speak with personality or let loose every once in a while. Vertex, which launched its own effort earlier this year, included TwitPics of the line at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in some of their very first tweets. Very human. Very engaging. And Johnson & Johnson’s feed is high on most people’s pharma-Twitter lists not because the content is necessarily always scintillating, but because everyone knows that there is a real person behind those postings (Marc Monseau, @mdmonseau).

That single outburst from Roche will linger in my mind long after the buzz of the vuvuzelas fade. I look forward to the next medical meeting with a Roche booth. Because the first thing I’ll do is march over to their booth, where — I hope — they’ll still be telling tales about that afternoon in South Africa when their football team slew Goliath.

By: Brian Reid

Brian Reid is a managing director at W2O Group, where he oversees influencer relations. He is a former journalist who believes content really is king.

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4 Responses

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  1. Love that national pride outweighed regulatory constraints, even for one bright shining moment, to allow both personality and a pulse to shine through from the land of biopharm. I, too, follow and enjoy the occassional quirk from @JNJComm (@mdmonseau is long dark). The difference between @JNJComm and @Roche_com is the alignment of a person to manage the Tweet stream.

    Too often companies use the “regulations” as both sword and shield when establishing digital footprints. Last I checked, healthcare (from pills to pumps) is a customer-focused industry. And, it’s high time industry engages with their customers in manners not divorced from the human condition.

    With one GOOAAAL, @Roche_com reclaimed its claim on their humanity. Let’s hope it was not fleeting.


  2. This is so true, Brian. Unless you’re really a die-hard fan, there isn’t a lot of reason to follow a brand that isn’t in the business of truly interacting (as opposed to just broadcasting press releases, for example). But when there is a person associated with the brand, it has two advantages. The obvious one is that it humanizes the brand; the less obvious one is that the individual who’s manning the account is also putting their *personal* brand at stake – which is a great incentive to represent the brand well.

  3. Good post, Brian. Very true. In the end, brand + personality = gooooooaaaaal!

  4. Such a good post – Thanks, Brian. One thought from my side is having a real person behind the tweets also shows employees that it’s OK to have a personality and make it real. Engaging employees is one of the keys to being successful in the quest for brand exposure.

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