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Why Drug Companies Prefer Twitter Over Blogs

GlaxoSmithKline has started a blog, becoming only the fourth* major drug company to launch an official unofficial voice on the web.

The world of drug company blogs is a placid, uneventful place. According to John Mack's PageFlakes site, where he collates drug blogs, GSK's MoreThanMedicine.us.gsk will be only the fourth Big Pharma blog to exist.

Drug companies thus far have been far more interested in Twitter than blogging. Check out AstraZeneca's Twitter stream: 420 updates! They're addicted! There's a reason for that ... which I'll get to below.

Of the four major drug blogs launched -- the other three are Johnson & Johnson's JNJ BTW, GSK's Alli Connect and Centocor's CNTO411 -- the latter two became defunct within months. So the major challenge for GSK's MoreThanMedicine is simply to keep posting and not drop off the face of the earth.

MoreThanMedicine kicked off with a bold statement:

... we feel obliged to these stakeholders, as well as our shareholders, to productively and appropriately engage in this new space.
Ergo, this blog.
But More Than Medicine is expressly uninterested in promoting GSK brands. As stated in our credo, our intent is to express a point of view and create a dialogue on health and healthcare issues you can't find anywhere else--not to serve as another product marketing vehicle.
"Expressly uninterested in promoting GSK brands?" Be still my beating heart! So far, GSK has given us a mix of feel-good items (one on GSK's Patient Assistance Program) and pop-culture notes (a piece on how putting your music on "shuffle" alleviates depression).

It's somewhat similar to the way J&J launched its blog. Here's J&J's Marc Monseau in the way-back machine, from two years ago:

... through JNJ BTW, I will try to find a voice that often gets lost in formal communications.
This is a big step for us as a company. Anyone working for a large corporation will appreciate that there are many internal limitations on what we say and how we say it.
I've been reading blogs for only a few months now, but already it's clear to me how important it is not just to watch, but to join in productively. Doing that will take some unlearning of old habits and traditional approaches to communicating -- and I will have to find my own voice.
On JNJ BTW, there will be talk about Johnson & Johnson -- what we are doing, how we are doing it and why. There will be comment on the news about our company and the industry -- occasionally correcting any mistakes (not that that ever happens!) or simply providing more context. I hope and expect that some of my colleagues will eventually join me on this blog.
We may not always be able to talk about product-specific issues, news from our operating companies or issues that fall under regulatory or legal constraints. But we're going to do what we can to talk openly, directly and to the best of our knowledge.
Although it's too early to judge, GSK's blog seems to be driven a bit more by current events whereas J&J's blog leans somewhat heavily on the company's charity/social responsibility events.

So why is Twitter more popular with drug companies than blogs? My theory: compliance officials and lawyers think it's harder to get into trouble in 140 characters than it is with the endless sheet of blank web space that is a blog.

*Did I get this wrong? If your company has a blog, please let me know about it.

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