Friday, February 11, 2011

Breaking the 140-character Limit of Twitter Opens the Door to FDA-Compliant Branded Tweets

"Say Hi to longer posts with Deck.ly" Deck.ly is a new technology that allows Twitter posts much longer than the standard 140 characters. Deck.ly is currently available for TweetDeck, the desktop, Android, and Google Chrome. It will soon be available on the iPhone and iPad.

Deck.ly has enormous potential for pharmaceutical marketers who have been chaffing at the bit to post meaningful branded messages via Twitter but who have been stymied by lack of guidance from FDA regarding how to provide fair balance within the 140-character limit of Twitter. The best the brightest minds in pharma marketing have come up with so far is sleazy Twitter spam as in the Levemir tweet discussed in this classic Pharma Marketing Blog post: "Novo Nordisk's Branded (Levemir) Tweet is Sleazy Twitter Spam!".

Here's how Deck.ly works. Using TweetDeck, I can type in this 477-character tweet:
"This is the age of taking action. Many men over 40 have experienced some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED). There's a treatment for ED that you should know about. It's VIAGRA (sildenafil citrate). Get answers at www.viagra.com. Do not take VIAGRA if you take nitrates, often prescribed for chest pain, as this may cause a sudden, unsafe drop in blood pressure. In the rare event of an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical help to avoid long-term injury."
The input box of TweetDeck will automatically change color and say "Long update using Deck.ly" I can then press the send button and the tweet will be sent.

Note that this statement contains the brand name (VIAGRA), its indication (erectile dysfunction), AND fair balance information (major side effects). In other words, it complies with FDA regulations (or should comply).

But what do my followers see, especially if they do NOT use TweetDeck and Deck.ly? They see this 138-character post on Twitter.com:
"This is the age of taking action. Many men over 40 have experienced some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED)… (cont) http://deck.ly/~xxOn9"
This does NOT include the brand name. Therefore, it is not regulated by the FDA and there are no regulatory concerns.

When readers of the post click on the deck.ly link, they see the full post on the TweetDeck.com site, which looks like this:


The post in the TweetDeck application looks like this:


It also includes at least a bit of the fair balance. When you click on "Read more," this window pops open:


There seems to be room for lots more information in this window.

Thus, by deftly designing the post, it can be FDA-compliant no matter what application is used to read it. The question i, however, Will the FDA think there is enough fair balance in the various forms? For that marketers still need guidance from the FDA. But that's a whole 'nother issue (see "Is It Time for Abrams to Leave?").

P.S. Another question is whether or not marketers feel that they catch the attention of their audience in the first 140 characters so that they click through to the branded message/Web site.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, John. We can’t afford to wait for the FDA to act on social media and yet we can’t afford to proceed without making sure we are following guidelines that currently exist. Being aware of new tools that allow pharma to add Twitter to their marketing mix with minimal risk is important. Now, we just need to work on getting review committees to agree that this is a minimal risk worth taking.

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