Touted as a strong contender to the Elon Musk-owned X – previously known as Twitter – which has long been an established name in the world of social media, the launch of Threads could not have come at a better time when the world is adjusting to the rebranding exercise.
Ever since Musk took control of the X platform in 2022, it has been mired in controversies. One such plight involved pharma giant Eli Lilly where changes to the authenticity tag ‘Twitter Blue’ dealt a significant blow to the company, knocking $15 billion off of its market cap. The event caused such disruption that Eli Lilly had to tender an apology for the fake tweet and the following fiasco.
All it took for a user was to create a fake Eli Lilly account, verify it for $8, and promise ‘free insulin’. Prior to the rule change, notable account holders were granted the blue tick for free, after a process of due diligence to ensure that the account was authentic and fight off imposter accounts. This process of authentication changed when Musk opened the blue tick option to anyone on payment of $8, a measure that cost Eli Lilly dearly.
Learning the lesson the hard way after a spike in fake accounts, Twitter suspended its $8 blue tick subscription plan, but, by then, many big pharma companies, including Merck, Pfizer, and Novartis, had seen enough to stop advertising on the platform.
Only after the pandemic did the sector truly open up to digital, witnessing a surge in digital marketing efforts to reach HCPs for information and knowledge support. The digital realm is relatively new for pharma companies, one which they are still adapting to while getting accustomed to new technologies in the ever-evolving space.
Given all the apprehension of the past, creating a debacle-proof digital environment for pharma and life sciences brands is not just important, but essential. The digital ecosystem should instil confidence that the medium is as safe and promising as the traditional route for interacting with HCPs.
If soaring popularity is any parameter to go by, the platform seems to have gained the vote of the masses. Threads broke the record of ChatGPT to cross a million sign-ups in just five days. It had taken ChatGPT and TikTok around two and nine months, respectively, to reach the same milestone. Facebook itself had taken just over four years to cross 100 million sign-ups, while for Twitter it took the platform five years to reach the milestone. Seen from that lens, the response to Threads by any measure has been nothing short of groundbreaking.
But does this huge user response mean that advertisers, especially life sciences companies, will be as keen to use the platform to reach their target audience?
When ad placements begin in the near future, pharma and life sciences brand marketers will get a clear picture of how compliant the platform is to industry and regulatory guidelines before they even consider advertising on Threads.
It will also have to be seen how HCPs respond to Threads. X, in its former Twitter days, proved quite popular with the physician fraternity – especially with digital opinion leaders – who saw the platform as a potential communication tool to help their patients, address misinformation, and advance scientific research. The platform has key physician communities, in which HCPs and fellow researchers connect with each other to share information around new treatment methods and discuss case studies.
Physicians have had a good experience with Twitter, now X, and the platform is taking a lot of critical measures to win back its lost ground. How well Threads will replicate or better the experience for physicians will set the tone for pharma marketing on the platform.
Irrespective of how new the platform is, it would certainly be a wise idea for pharma and life sciences brands to have an account on Threads to keep a tab on the direction it takes, so that they are right there to jump in the wagon when the time calls for it.
Harshit Jain MD, founder and global CEO, Doceree