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December 21, 2022

Elon has entered the chat: should pharma worry amid Twitter chaos?

Our analytics show how upheaval at the social media company may impact the life science industry.
twitter's impact on pharma
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When Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter in April 2022, many assumed the stunt-prone Tesla frontman was simply craving attention. But after months of back and forth – including a disagreement about bots, a lawsuit, a whistleblower complaint, and many, many rumors – Musk completed the acquisition.

And then things really got out of hand.

The saga continues to provide tasty tidbits for tech pundits to chew on, and some highly visible brands and personalities have (for now, anyway) abandoned the platform. But Twitter remains many users’ favorite place to get and share information – including people in and related to the pharmaceutical industry. Physicians and researchers use the platform to have scientific discussions, and teams within life science companies rely on Twitter, among other platforms, to monitor conversations about specific conditions, treatments, or competitors.

Within3 used our technology to understand how changes at Twitter affect these users so we can offer practical tips on what, if anything, they should do next.

Do I need to worry about what’s happening at Twitter?

Short answer: not really.

According to our data, the scientific community has not shown much concern, or even interest, about Musk’s involvement at Twitter. Despite a Twitter-dominated news cycle throughout late October and November, only 0.08% of the scientific community mentioned Musk in social posts between January and November 2022.

The flurry of mostly negative attention on Twitter isn’t without precedent. Consider the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was accused of harvesting personal data about the platform’s users. During the tumult that followed, user activity on Facebook continued to increase, with 42% growth in Q2 during the scandal and 33% growth in Q3 after the scandal. (Pharma companies, in particular, did not leave Facebook en masse during this time.)

Given all the negative press about Twitter – as with Facebook a few years ago – it’s easy to wonder why the services didn’t lose millions of users.

Simply put, people are more likely to ride out a rough period and gravitate to something newer and better when it comes along rather than abruptly leave due to dissatisfaction.

Do I need to take any action or make any changes?

Aside from the usual steps to ensure any Twitter account you use is secure and uses a strong password, you likely don’t need to take drastic measures. While there is a groundswell of interest in alternative platforms such as Mastodon, the reality is that a new platform will take time to grow and achieve legitimacy.

The scientific community is also less likely to be impacted by trolling or inappropriate speech due to the nature of the participants. Most users who have cultivated a community and rely on Twitter to have scholarly or scientific discussions don’t need to be overly concerned with things taking a nasty turn.

What else do I need to know?

There’s no need to stop using or leave Twitter if it’s working for you. There isn’t a legitimate competitor for the platform – even the oft-referenced Mastodon just recently reached one million monthly active users, compared to Twitter’s 237+ million.

If you’re most concerned about your social monitoring activities, remember that there’s been no significant disruption or dropoff in activity among the scientific community on Twitter.

It’s also important to remember that social media includes more than just Twitter. Other platforms will emerge and recede in the natural course of tech development. For now, the scientific conversations you want to listen to and be part of are still taking place on Twitter – without the unfortunate side effects of Musk-related messiness.

Social monitoring is part of Within3’s insights management platform. Learn how to use it for medical congresses.

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