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Some industry pundits are incensed that FDA’s recent social media guidance prevents pharma from using Twitter to promote its products.

Even PhRMA, the U.S. industry’s trade group, ripped FDA a new one in comments submitted to the docket (see “Die-Hard Pharma Rx Brand Marketers Should Get Out of the Social Media Game” and “Drug Industry Rips Into FDA Over Social Media Guidelines“).

Despite all the brouhaha over branded tweets, the drug industry has been very active on Twitter.

Many pharma corporate twitter accounts have a substantial number of followers. @Boehringer, for example, has over 40K followers, @GSKUS has over 45K, @JNJNews has over 77K, @Novartis has has nearly 100K, and @pfizer has 114K followers!

Who are these followers and where do they come from? Read on to find out (or click on the chart for immediate gratification).

My friend Silja Chouquet, aka @whydotpharma on Twitter, is in the process of re-analyzing 17 English-speaking pharma company Twitter accounts. She did the first analysis in 2011. Here are three key findings:

  • Two-thirds of pharma followers are from English-speaking countries
  • Relevant stakeholders for pharma make up 56% of followers
  • Oncology, endocrinology and neurological diseases are top areas of interest for pharma followers

Silja uses some social listening technology to track this. When her 2014 report comes out I will interview her on my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast show. For now, let’s dive a little deeper into her findings (find more details here).

I’m not surprised by the English-speaking results. Two-thirds of everything via the open Internet is English-speaking. But not all English pharma tweets originate in English-speaking countries! Silja says the 17 pharma accounts benchmarked were all corporate accounts — notably German and Swiss based pharma companies Novartis, Roche and Boehringer — are tweeting in English.

But who are the “relevant stakeholders.”

Silja includes Healthcare Professionals (HCPs), Media, Advocacy, and Bloggers (including ePatients and Health/Medical Bloggers) in the “relevant stakeholders” grouping. I’m in the 44% of “others,” or remainder of followers who consist of “diverse other segments: Industry (including Pharma Employees), service providers, agencies, executive recruiters, and the general public. These groups are considered secondary audiences for pharma, but may still have an important role in sharing pharma messages to their followers.”

I wonder what portion of the 44% “other” followers are pharma employees? Perhaps it’s required of all employees (see, for example, this post: “How Did Pfizer Get So Many Twitter Followers?“).