We often see healthcare professionals (HCPs) participating in Twitter chats within individual therapeutic areas like cardiology (#CardioBytes) or nephrology (#NephJC), or focused on broader topics such as telemedicine (#TelemedNow) or nursing (#WeNurses). This has especially been the case during COVID-19, as we previously highlighted back in March, with Digital Opinion Leaders encouraging participation in certain Twitter chats.
This article will explore why so many HCPs choose to take part in Twitter chats, and outline the opportunities here for the life sciences industry and other health stakeholders to use Twitter chats as a tool to engage with and support HCP customers and become a trusted partner within the online dialogue.
What is a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat, also referred to as a Tweet chat, is a public conversation on Twitter formed around the use of one unique hashtag. This hashtag allows Twitter users to follow along with and participate in that particular discussion. Twitter chats are usually recurring and on specific topics to regularly connect people with similar interests.
Using CREATION Pinpoint to listen to the specific conversations of healthcare professionals online, we discovered 10 benefits of Twitter chats as identified by HCPs themselves:
10 reasons HCPs love Twitter chats
- High level of engagement
- Expanded networking
- Bringing people together
- Supportive environment
- Real time answers
- On-demand resources
- Amplify the voice of HCPs
- Diversity of HCP contributors
- Specific content focus
- Personal development
1. High level of engagement
The interactive question-answer nature of Twitter chats enables HCP participants to be highly involved in discussions and even in deciding discussion topics, meaning doctors themselves are empowered as experts in their field. In the US HCP pancreatic cancer conversation for example, engagement with the monthly Twitter chat #PancChat is often a key driver of HCP discussion.
2. Expanded networking
Twitter chats provide opportunities for HCPs to engage with their peer community and learn from the experiences of others whilst developing their professional network. Many influential HCPs have expansive following networks, which enables them to disperse content globally to a huge audience.
3. Bringing people together
Especially during COVID-19, HCPs have described the power of Twitter chats to bring like-minded people and professionals safely together. When formal education settings have been inaccessible, Twitter has provided a safe platform to learn and gather, helping people not to feel isolated.
For anyone interested in #telemedicine, the #TelemedNow tweet chat is tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. Great opportunity to learn and ask questions. An example of Twitter bringing together people to find ways for how technology can help out during this #COVID19 pandemic.
— Ryan K. Louie, MD, PhD (@ryanlouie) April 1, 2020
4. Supportive environment
Twitter chats offer HCPs a supportive and encouraging environment in which to learn in collaboration with others. Doctors love to use social media professionally to share their knowledge and experience with peers, and are great at caring for one another, even online.
Twitter chats are cool. They’re a quick & easy way to interact with other accounts about a topic that changes each week. Different physician moderators host these chats every time, so you get different personalities at the helm. But always supportive & rewarding.
It’s easy t pic.twitter.com/xXn4XmWf1q
— Doctors On Social Media (@somedocs) May 6, 2020
5. Real time answers
Participating in Twitter chats offers HCPs a way to engage live with the conversation and receive instantaneous answers to questions. We have previously highlighted the power of social media and particularly Twitter to connect experts from around the world who can work together to quickly find solutions.
— Regie Layug (@DocRegie) March 6, 2020
6. On-demand resources
Even though Twitter chats can be fast paced and sometimes difficult to keep up with at the time, HCPs say that they value being able to review the conversation at a later date, compared to a live webinar for example when this would not be possible.
7. Amplify the voice of HCPs
Doctors also say that healthcare professional Twitter chats help to amplify the voice of doctors on social media, giving them more influence as a group than as individuals, and offering more of a chance that their opinions will be listened to by powerful names in the medical industry.
.@somedocs are doing tremendous work to amplify the voices of physicians on social media and the Wednesday #Twitter chat is one of my favorite segments to follow. Excited for this week's chat moderated by @DrPaulaWhiteman. Follow along if you can this Wed. At 8 PM EST. https://t.co/AC1bKuVXKR
— Houssein Safa, MD (@hsafaMD) May 5, 2020
8. Diversity of HCP contributors
Social media removes the boundaries of geographical location and professional seniority, and HCPs participating in Twitter chats say that this enables them to benefit from more diversity amongst authors and opinions.
I LIKE how #TelemedNow has become an essential tweetchat.
But I LOVE the diversity in the participants here! (…also in backgrounds, experiences, opinions) pic.twitter.com/OXOA0FPNdN
— Rasu Shrestha MD MBA (@RasuShrestha) July 9, 2020
9. Specific content focus
HCPs describe how the specific focus of Twitter chats, announced prior to the start of the event, allows professionals to choose conversations which are highly relevant for them. There may not be thousands of authors who choose to engage with a particular Twitter chat, but instead, a small group of HCPs with a niche focus who will provide a highly pertinent dialogue.
the beauty of learning from social media is the specificity & serendipity of the content & the credibility of the source/s. Although the latter can be a negative
Twitter journal clubs & tweet chats are have demonstrated some efficacy
So why not
— war is NOT peace (@kaye_rolls) June 24, 2020
10. Personal development
By choosing to participate in informative Twitter chats, HCPs are keeping their clinical knowledge up to date and can evidence this as a contribution towards their own continuous professional development.
— 💙🌼✨#Hellomynameis Jo✨🌼 RN 😷💙💜💚 (@jomwlever) June 8, 2020
What opportunities do Twitter chats present for Pharma?
We have seen how Twitter chats can be beneficial for HCPs, but can they offer a solution to pharmaceutical companies wishing to engage with their customers? There are undoubtedly opportunities for health stakeholders to observe, take part, sponsor, or even host a Twitter chat.
Observe a Twitter chat
Why not begin first of all by simply watching and following a Twitter chat as it takes place, by filtering for the chat’s hashtag? Even as an observer, this will give you valuable insights into:
- Real time needs of your customers..
- HCP communication preferences including lexicon.
- Influential voices in the conversation.
Take part in an existing Twitter chat
Of course, by actually being present in the conversation, you will still benefit from all of the insights above, whilst contributing to the dialogue. Although Pharma does not seem to be doing this regularly at the moment, there could be an opportunity to be harnessed here. A few years back, GSK took part in the #GEFlive Twitter chat by answering questions, and much of their content received online engagement from participants.
A7b: Partnerships between governments, NGOs, industry & research networks are the model #GEFlive
— GSK US (@GSKUS) March 29, 2017
Sponsor a Twitter chat or related content
Another way for pharmaceutical companies to get involved with Twitter chats is to support associated activities referenced in Tweet chats. An example of this is seen below, where Takeda provided an educational grant to fund a CME activity, which #MondayNightIBD mentioned in a Tweet chat.
🏆🆓#CME with a tweet
✅2 PreTest Q https://t.co/QlZFBUZNqM
✅2 PostTest Q https://t.co/av8wBFXLTW
Supported by an educational grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A.,Inc.
📌Tell us where you are in your career!
— #MondayNightIBD (@MondayNightIBD) June 27, 2020
Host a Twitter chat
One example of a pharmaceutical company hosting a Twitter chat is #PancChat, a Twitter chat focused on pancreatic cancer, which was originally co-hosted by Celgene (prior to merging with Bristol Myers Squibb in late 2019) alongside patient advocacy group Let’s Win! Pancreatic Cancer.
— Let's Win! Pancreatic Cancer 💜 (@letswinpc) September 20, 2017
Tips to create a successful HCP Twitter chat
If as a pharmaceutical company or health stakeholder, if you decide to engage with existing chats or initiate your own Twitter chat, then here are some things to keep in mind:
First, listen to your HCPs. To ensure that the content focus is relevant to your customers, you need to know what their needs and priorities are. Respect the online community and find ways to add value to it. Pick a niche and engaging topic – not simply what you want to say, but something people want to talk about.
Begin to build trust. Pharma companies will need to demonstrate that they genuinely care about doctors and patients, above profits. Consider partnering with existing influencers. Working collaboratively with a credible source like a patient organisation or HCP Digital Opinion Leader is a great way to get started.
On a practical level, plan for compliance. A cross-functional team of colleagues will be important before and during your Twitter chat, to pre-check messages, and advise on legal and medical compliance factors to allow you to respond rapidly and appropriately during the chat.
To learn more about how to listen to and engage with your HCP customers online, please get in touch.