WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT This has been a busy month or so for CVS Caremark. Last week it was a party on Beale Street as the chain announced its entry into Memphis, Tenn.; this week it broke out the pina coladas and celebrated its entry into Puerto Rico. Last month, it was Budweiser in St. Louis.
(THE NEWS: CVS/pharmacy joins Twitter. For the full story, click here)
There are just eight states in which CVS does not operate stores: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In drug store retailing, filling in the map is important; being able to provide coverage “from sea to shining sea” means a lot when you go out and try to sell your services to big healthcare payers.
And while CVS’ recent store openings shouldn’t be overlooked or short-sold, Drug Store News fully believes the news that the company’s move onto Twitter is deserving of a toast. CVS appears to have very quietly launched its Twitter page Feb. 10, and although it still trails Walgreens’ page in terms of followers, in fairness to CVS, Walgreens has been at this for a while longer. Since its first tweet Feb. 10, CVS is up to 1,938 followers at press time versus 6,282 followers for Walgreens, which posted its first tweet on June 9, 2009.
Clearly, tying Twitter to its ExtraCare card has given it a bit of an advantage in terms of its ability to grow an audience quickly. There is a reason that CVS got to 64 million cardholders; there is a reason why Tom Ryan has cited the program in almost every earnings call since the company introduced ExtraCare almost 10 years ago. It’s because ExtraCare cardholders are highly engaged CVS customers. Using Twitter to communicate special deals is a smart bet and likely a strong reason why it managed to grow its audience so quickly in its first week on the highly popular social media site. When Drug Store News first reported on CVS’ new Twitter page, Feb. 11, the company had just 812 followers; less than 24 hours later that number had more than doubled.
But there is a lot more to social media -- particularly, Twitter -- than just trying to push people to your brand, as Drug Store News itself has learned, which has 600 followers of its own -- we started back in March 2009. In the beginning we simply tweeted stories that appeared on our Qeb site; that got us about 100 followers. These days, we tweet items that may or may not appear in Drug Store News or any of the other magazines. We just try to keep our audience engaged -- not just with the brand, but with each other as well. As a result, we have found that our Twitter followers are some of our most engaged and active users on drugstorenews.com.
Twitter is not a commercial so much as it is a community; it’s about education and communication. It’s marketing alright but it’s more subtle than a circular or a print ad or a 30-second TV spot could ever be. It’s more like a product placement on a hit TV show -- the brand benefits from just being associated with the content; it’s written “into” the script rather than having had a script written for it. That’s the magic of Twitter.
Starting off by tying Twitter to ExtraCare was a brilliant first move for CVS. Twitter, and social networking in general, are how its next generation of shoppers communicates with each other. To stay relevant with that crowd over the long term, Twitter will have to be more than an extension of ExtraCare.
In the meantime, it can pick up some more sales by finding yet another way to get its best customers to buy more, while growing its social marketing presence.
One other CVS item that deserves a toast: the 800 health fair events it has planned for this year, under its “A Su Salud” program. Last year the company gave away $49 million worth of health screenings through the program. But perhaps even more impressive than that number is the impact at the patient-level. Of the more than 195,000 people screened during last year's events --
* 33% had high cholesterol* 36% had a high to moderate risk of developing osteoporosis* 28% had hypertension* 22% had diabetes — more than half diagnosed for the first time.
That is a pretty powerful demonstration of what NACDS and NCPA and other pharmacy leaders call “pharmacy as physician extender.”Now, Drug Store News will drink to that: Cheers! Or, should we say, “Salud?”