Embedding Tweets?

Update: This post contains an error about the character counts of the URLs. That error was corrected via a more recent post, which can be accessed here: http://regulatoryrx.blogspot.com/2014/08/tweet-embedding-correction.html

Last week, Media Bistro had a story about Twitter enabling the embedding of Tweets, and several people asked me whether this would be useful for pharma to make use of social media and provide more information.

Here is a sample progression that I sent out much to my followers' annoyance (sorry about that!).

Original Tweet:
Original Tweet on Twitter.com

Here's the Tweet with the embedded portion as it appears on Twitter.com accessed from my Macbook Air using Chrome:

Embedded Tweet on Twitter.com

You won't always see exactly that same thing.

For example, here's what the Tweet looked like in my Hootsuite tab (again from Chrome on Macbook Air):

Embedded Tweet on Hootsuite

Note the important differences that the embedded Tweet appears fully as a picture-like object with the new Tweet on Twitter.com, but when using Hootsuite, you only see the URL for the original Tweet, and even that URL is cut off, so any information contained in the original Tweet only comes through on some platforms.

The mobile experience is also varied.

I use the official Twitter app on my iPhone.

Here are the different views there. The first is what I see in my Twitter feed from the Home screen, showing my full Twitter stream:

Mobile View in Stream

Again, the full original Tweet is displayed with full attribution (Twitter handle, user name, and Twitter avatar).

Tapping the new Tweet (with the embedded Tweet inside it) takes you to a full screen display of the message.

Mobile View 2: Full Screen Display of Tweet

By contrast, tapping on the embedded Tweet opens only that Tweet in full screen.

Original Tweet on Mobile from Tapping on Embedded Portion

From the perspective of achieving compliance for using Twitter for marketing prescription products, I don't see how this will help much. While it is true that some people would be able to receive more information via a Tweet that contains an embedded Tweet (e.g., you could embed a Tweet dedicated solely to providing risk information), the variety in appearance is concerning. I wouldn't feel comfortable relying on the fact that people would access my Tweet via Twitter.com or via the official Twitter app, instead of using a third-party platform, such as Hootsuite.

Indeed, when I'm on my laptop, I almost exclusively use Hootsuite to access Twitter, rather than using Twitter.com; so unless there were a means to restrict access to the message to people using platforms that accommodate Tweet embedding, I'd be averse to relying on this mechanism to provide mandatory information in a Tweet (such as risk information).

I also am not sure whether the FDA would regard information presented via an embedded Tweet as having comparable prominence to information presented in the primary Tweet. That's important for the presentation of risk information to meet the fair balance requirement.

There is another problem with this method of providing information.

To get the embedding to function as demonstrated above, you must include the full URL of the original Tweet in the new Tweet. Here's what that looks like:

Tweet with Full URL Displayed

As you can see, the full URL is extremely long. In my example it takes up 57 characters of the 140 allowed, and if you use a URL shortener, then the functionality fails. Here's the view on Hootsuite:

Embedded Tweet Using URL Shortener on Hootsuite

Of course, embedded Tweets don't show on Hootsuite, so I also checked on Twitter.com. Here's that view:
URL Shortener Usage on Twitter.com
And I checked the mobile view in the official Twitter app.
URL Shortener Usage on Mobile in Stream

In both cases, only the shortened URL was displayed. That's a real shame as the savings of 46 characters (11 for shortened URL vs. 57 for the full URL) is huge in the realm of Tweets.

When I looked on mobile, I noticed another interesting feature. Namely, that while viewing your own Tweets from the Me portion of the app, the embedded Tweet doesn't appear, even when you provide the full URL. It actually looks the same as the Hootsuite view, presenting just the beginning of the full URL.

Multiple Embedded Tweets on Mobile Showing Shortener Usage
So, while embedding Tweets could certainly play a role in providing Twitter users with a way to include much more valuable information in this important platform, I'm afraid that at the moment it won't significantly expand the ability to use Twitter compliantly for manufacturers of prescription products.

h/t to Alec Gaffney & Polaris Consulting for this post.

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