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.