When Pfizer ($PFE) came to set up its Twitter ($TWTR) account in 2009, the social network was already a big deal, with users sending 100,000 tweets per hour when Michael Jackson died. Arriving late to the party meant the @Pfizer handle was already taken. Now, four years later, Pfizer has finally claimed the account.
Pfizer is now tweeting from both @Pfizer and @Pfizer_news, the account it settled on after learning its brand name was already taken. While @Pfizer_news has been active on Twitter, new users often searched for @Pfizer when trying to find the Big Pharma, only to quickly realize the account was unaffiliated with the company. The former owner of the @Pfizer account shared unflattering news about the company, such as a report of an employee's lawsuit. Now, Pfizer has taken over the account and can better control how it appears on social media.
The news raised speculation that Pfizer had bought the account, or pressured Twitter into handing it over. Pfizer has since dismissed these rumors. "The @Pfizer previous owner stopped using it, the account lay fallow for some months and we asked Twitter if we could have it and Twitter said yes. It just hadn't been used for a while and we asked the question--if it's not being used is there any mechanism by which we could request it?" Pfizer's senior director of media relations Andrew Widger told PMLiVE.
Several other Big Pharma companies lack control of potential corporate Twitter handles. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has multiple Twitter accounts--such as @JNJNews and @JNJCares--but @JNJ is taken by someone who primarily tweets about religion in German. As @JNJ is an active account, the approach used by Pfizer isn't available to J&J. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) may be able to claim its stock ticker @BMY as the South Korean person who has the account has never tweeted, but @BMS is taken by an active user.