Rebecca Canvin
How is Pharma Using Social Media?

How does pharma use social media? Ogilvy Healthworld and Pulsar’s report assesses global corporate social media performance of top 20 pharmaceutical companies

Over the past decade there has been a huge shift in the way that businesses and consumers use social media. Pharma, known by many as a cautious industry, is starting to learn how to work within the complex regulations and compliance boundaries to reach a wide audience on social.

For this edition of the Social Check-up, Ogilvy Healthworld, in Partnership with Pulsar, looked at how the top 20 pharma companies are creating content and engaging with followers.

“This year’s report includes more companies than ever before, analysing the global impact of 20 pharmaceutical corporate social media channels,” explains Ogilvy Healthworld’s Director of Social Media, Rebecca Canvin. “We used Pulsar’s social media listening technology to track the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts of the pharma companies over the first half of 2016.”

Posts that contained a link to an external source were the most frequently shared, but other types of post received higher engagement

Our report analysed the type of content that pharma companies distributed on their social media channels (link, image, image and link, text, video, video and link or GIF). This allowed us to investigate which companies met the needs of their audiences.

-GIF it a go – Whilst GIF posts were the least commonly distributed (1% of all posts) type of content, they received a much better engagement rate than the more frequently distributed, ‘text-only’, ‘video and link’ and ‘image and link’ posts, which received the lowest engagement rate.

Disease awareness information was the most common theme communicated, but audiences preferred to interact with other themes

We also looked at the themes of content that pharma was posting (congress, corporate company news, corporate social responsibility, disease awareness, pharma industry news, product and research updates or other).

-Disease discourse and The 2 Cs – Disease awareness was the most common content theme posted by pharma (29% of all content was disease awareness), but their audiences preferred to interact with corporate (company) news and corporate social responsibility (CSR)-related content

Publishing the greatest number of posts doesn’t result in highest engagement

Last year our report showed that the companies who produced the most posts received the highest engagement, in terms of likes, shares and retweets. However this year things have changed and the most active companies did not necessarily achieve the highest engagement levels. Boehringer Ingelheim and Novo Nordisk generated considerably more engagement with fewer posts.


Rebecca believes there are two reasons for this: “The results suggest that there are two critical success factors at play here; quality content that is relevant to the audience and the incorporation of paid social into communications plans. We know that there has been a huge decline in organic engagement and paid social gives companies the ability to achieve better response rates through highly specific content targeting.”

So how can pharma effectively use social media?

Companies need to keep on top of the changing environment and move from being marketers to publishers. In this way, they can transform superficial content into great stories and experiences; shifting from aimless connections to meaningful conversations. At Ogilvy we call this phase ‘Deep Social’, a strategy pharma companies can employ to drive better engagement for their social media activities. Rick Evans, Digital Strategist at Ogilvy Healthworld, believes that “we should look to other industry sectors for inspiration on what is driving user engagement. Compliance boundaries should be seen as a creative challenge rather than a roadblock.”

Pharma should:

– Develop a greater understanding of their social audiences, so they know how to maintain engagement whilst simultaneously attracting new followers

– Use tactics such as paid social to target and reach relevant audiences

– Consider a healthy balance of created, curated and co-created content, developed with their audiences in mind

– Understand what interests audiences, and how different content types can drive different types of engagement

    We'd love to hear from you.