Health IT

How Pfizer reclaimed its Twitter handle: a surreal look at corporate social media

Proving one’s identity can be a tricky thing on Twitter. There are probably few things more galling than identity theft. And yet, Twitter has been the source of many incidents of this when it comes to celebrities — 2009 seems like an especially busy year for it. But when it comes to corporate twitter accounts, […]

Proving one’s identity can be a tricky thing on Twitter. There are probably few things more galling than identity theft. And yet, Twitter has been the source of many incidents of this when it comes to celebrities — 2009 seems like an especially busy year for it. But when it comes to corporate twitter accounts, it gets a bit surreal. Company marketers are faced with the challenging task of proving they’re legitimate in the face of a skeptical public. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) is a good example of this.

Big pharma company Pfizer has had an account on Twitter since 2009. Or at least it seemed like it did. But as pharma marketing blogger John Mack  (@pharmaguy) reports in a recent post, the company had to initially settle for @Pfizer_news because @pfizer had been taken by someone else.

There were certain telltale signs that @pfizer was not the handle of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. For one thing, it was posting unflattering news stories that no corporate social media marketer would post. Here’s one example Mack referenced: ‘St. Clair County woman filed suit against Pfizer & one of its employees alleging she was injured after the employee collided w/ her vehicle.’

Yet, @Pfizer_news did not seem entirely legitimate either when it went live in 2009, recounts Mack. It was mainly because its Twitter page looked “amateurish.”  That prompted an amusing Twitter exchange  between Mack and Pfizer, including Ray Kerins,  then the head of global media relations, who has since moved to Bayer.

From @pharmaguy: @Pfizer_News I believe is a fake – jut reposting Yahoo & Google news items that contain word “Pfizer.” My advice: Block ’em! 2:48 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

From @Pfizer_News: @pharmaguy: John Mack – We are real! Ray Kerins will call you shortly. 2:58 PM Jul 21st from web

From @pharmaguy: @val1a My gut tells me I’m right. Just look at the pixelated logo! Amateurs. #1 pharma would never dis their image that way! 2:59 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

From @pharmaguy: RT @pfizer_news: @pharmaguy: “John Mack – We are real!” No you’re not! Wait! Is that my phone ringing? 3:01 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

From @pharmaguy: @brianreid I bet two Tweets that they are fake, fake, fake. 3:06 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck in reply to brianreid

From @pharmaguy: @shwen Nobody knows if you’re a Pfizer or a P[f]oser in the Twitterverse! 3:08 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck in reply to shwen

From @pharmaguy: “On Twitter, only Mack knows I’m NOT Pfizer!” http://twitpic.com/b4rx4 3:14 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

From @pharmaguy: @RayKerins Is this the “real” Ray Kerins, VP of Communications at Pfizer? Or another P[f]oser? 3:30 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck in reply to RayKerins

From @RayKerins: I guess we will find out when I see pharmaguy on Thursday 3:35 PM Jul 21st from web

Only recently has Pfizer, which has 56,000 followers on Twitter, reclaimed ownership of Twitter handle @pfizer.

Mack cited a report by PM Live in which Pfizer stated:

“We didn’t want to delay our entry into social media, so we decided to choose an alternate handle for our launch: @pfizer_news.

“Many of you already write @pfizer in your mentions and messages (even before we had the name), so it feels right to swap in @pfizer to replace @pfizer_news as the new name of our primary feed.”

Mack suspects Twitter let Pfizer acquire it, but for how much? Since Twitter has gone public, it’s likely to do some more housecleaning for pharma brands. Although Merck (@merck) and Amgen (@amgen) have also claimed their handles, he sees Bristol Myers-Squibb and Johnson & Johnson as having a slightly greater challenge. Why? Because @bms and @jnj don’t violate trademarks.