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Twitter to 'X' and the Evolving Social Media Landscape for Marketers: Q&A with Mikaela Walker, Marketing and Social Manager at Greater Than One


Amid Twitter's transformation into "X", social media expert Mikaela Walker weighs in on the rebrand's impact for pharma marketing, assesses ongoing brand safety risks, and highlights established social platforms and those gaining traction.

In the fast-moving realm of social media, the transformation of Twitter to "X" has caught significant attention. Senior editor Fran Pollaro had the opportunity to discuss the change and its potential ramifications for the pharmaceutical marketing industry with Mikaela Walker, Greater Than One’s marketing and social manager. Walker provides an analysis of the rebrand, evaluates the risks and benefits of advertising on "X", and offers insights into other solutions in the social media world.

Pharm Exec: How do you perceive the recent rebranding of Twitter to “X”, especially in relation to pharmaceutical marketing and the #MedTwitter community? Do you believe this shift signals a broader move towards becoming an all-encompassing super app, and could it potentially alienate its core user base?

Mikaela Walker: I think that the rebranding is an effort by X to try to compete with the bigger and better social media platforms out there. But all the changes that have been made since Musk took over have led to a lot of murkiness and uncertainty. That’s not a good way to attract or keep users, and it is not attractive to marketers, especially pharma marketers who are more conservative than most. Because of this, I believe that pharma marketing dollars being spent on Twitter will continue to shrink as they reallocate their spend to other social media platforms.

Mikaela Walker, Marketing and Social Manager, Greater Than One

Mikaela Walker, Marketing and Social Manager, Greater Than One

#MedTwitter is still active on X as they have spent years building a community on the app and while they may not be happy with some of the change, X is the still the best location for them to be quickly informed of updates in the industry such as policy changes, new studies, papers, etc. It’s also an easy way to stay connected with other physicians and professional associations. They have spent years building up a community on Twitter and right now, there is nowhere else where this community exists.

While there has been a lot of hype around Threads being the “Twitter Killer”, at least for something similar to #MedTwitter, this may be a way off. Threads would need a lot greater functionality, even surpassing X, for there to be a mass exodus to the platform.

While I am not opposed to the concept of “one app to rule them all”, it would have been better to build that app from scratch instead of losing what made Twitter great in the first place.

Pharm Exec: With the evolution of Twitter to X, are you still seeing pronounced risks concerning brand safety and content moderation?

Mikaela Walker: At Greater Than One, we believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. While there are still some safety risks, there are steps that we can take to mitigate them for our clients.

Within Twitter’s (and now X’s) Ads Manager, there are more settings related to customizing what content we don’t want to put ads near and which users we don’t want to put ads in front of than most other paid social platforms. For example, we have more capability on Twitter to implement negative keywords and avoid showing up around certain topics or phrases, than on Facebook and Instagram.

We also continuously monitor client ads, so we can immediately act if something occurs.

Pharm Exec: Which other social media platforms are gaining traction, and what factors are driving their adoption? In light of these shifts, how do you envision the future trajectory of pharma marketing across these social media channels?

Mikaela Walker: TikTok has made several advances in their platform's targeting and capabilities to the extent that it's become a trusted and relatively effective ad platform for spreading awareness. After being wary of TikTok at the outset, pharmaceutical companies are starting to come around to the idea of advertising on the platform.We’re seeing more companies start to spend money, both through traditional and in feed ads, as well as through influencer marketing.

In terms of LinkedIn—with the change in rules around pharmaceutical brand marketing, we are also seeing more brands put money behind advertising there. LinkedIn has the benefit of having much more reliable B2B targeting than any other social network, and thus is a great asset to advertisers looking to specifically target certain specialties of physicians, job titles, field of study, and more. LinkedIn is also a very solid platform when it comes to hitting the right audience, though it does come with the tradeoff of usually higher costs.

Currently, Facebook and Instagram still receive the majority of advertising dollars, but as more new platforms are launched and social media marketing begins to mature, I believe that there will be a shift in social media marketing spend. There will be improved targeting and pharma marketers will begin to spread their dollars around to more of the social media platforms; they will begin to spend their dollars on the platform or platforms where their audience is rather than the most well-known platforms.

Pharma companies will also begin to embrace influencer marketing more as many consumers, especially the younger generations, trust influencers more than they do a pharmaceutical ad.

Pharm Exec: Considering the platform's challenges, how valuable is it for DOL/KOLs in your view?

Mikaela Walker: It's a great place to find new and upcoming DOLs and KOLs. Pharma companies can look at who is active on the platform sharing valuable information, commenting on posts, etc. and subsequently engage with them off platform.

Pharm Exec: How did you initially perceive Musk's acquisition of Twitter, especially given the platform's challenges at the time? And how do you assess its current state and trajectory?

Mikaela Walker: I believe that Twitter had a lot of potential that wasn’t realized, and I was positively optimistic that when Musk purchased Twitter that he would be able to take the platform to the next level. A shake up is sometimes what a business needs to move it from stagnation to growth. Unfortunately, that is not how it has played out.

Twitter had quieted down in the past few months and with a new CEO on board I had begun to believe that it was moving in a new direction. But, with recent changes such as the rebrand, tweet reading limits, and a desire to be the everything app that optimism has declined somewhat. Like many others in the industry, I am in a watch-and-wait mode to decide the best course of action.

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