A new report published by Ogilvy Healthworld reveals that pharma companies are increasing turning to social media to build their corporate reputation.
The rise of social media engagement in the pharma industry
The report chronicled the rise of social media engagement in the pharmaceuticals sector. It collated corporate social media activity from 14 pharma companies, across ten social networks, covering 85 social network profiles at a rate of one week of social media activity per month for three months.
The ‘Connecting the dots: Which Pharma Companies are Succeeding in the Social Media Space?’ report evaluated social media activity in six areas. These were social presence, social network, community size, activity, engagement and virality. It showed that the pharma industry is social at an average rate of 68.43 on its index in 2014. This is a rise from an average of 33.85 in 2013.
Which social media sites are popular with the pharma sector?
The report also broke social media activity in the pharma sector down by individual site. It showed that the number of tweets written by these pharma companies rose by 530% from 2013 whilst the number of Twitter followers ticked up 295% to 790,000.
Twitter was by far the most popular social media site utilised by the pharmaceuticals industry in 2014, but social media usage by the sector rose across several prominent platforms:
- Facebook followers ticked up at a rate of 44% to 1,300,000.
- The industry had 28,000 subscribers on YouTube by the end of last year, which was a rise of 133% from the year before.
- There was a 200% increase in the number of firms on Pinterest and a 100% rise in the number of firms on Flickr.
- Five pharma companies are now on Instagram and four have set up a Vine account.
Which companies are “connecting the dots” on social media?
The research also showed which pharma companies are ahead of the pack in terms of social media engagement. It used the above mentioned six criteria to divide the firms analysed into three tiers of social media engagement:
- Connecting the dots: The report defines this as “the group of companies ahead of the pack and ‘connecting the dots’” that “have successfully integrated social media into their wider marketing strategy.”
- Dabbling with the dots: The report defines this as companies that “have a substantial social media presence but may not be maintaining a constant level of activity or attracting loyal followers.”
- Searching the strategy: The report defines this as a small subgroup a firms that “know they want to be involved in social but have not had the strategy to stand against the competition.”
PR Week reported that the study showed that out of those firms surveyed, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bayer, Novartis and Merck, which were all ‘connecting the dots’ the most in terms being active on their social media profiles. They were the also the firms that encouraged a large number of users to engage with their profiles.
Why is the pharma sector engaging with social media?
Why are large pharmaceuticals companies such as Boehringer Ingelheim and Bayer going to such lengths to build up their presence on social media? Ogilvy Healthworld’s Social Media Manager, Rebecca Canvin, commented in the study that:
“Our report clearly demonstrates a dramatic and successful increase in activity. Social media has changed the way pharma companies communicate – it allows them to build corporate reputation and engage in genuine, meaningful conversations with audiences.”
Pharma wants to join the conversation
In other words social media is a valuable communication tool. In a world where over a billion people have an active Facebook account, Twitter has over 288 million monthly active users according to company data and YouTube has more than a billion users, the conversation is already taking place on a massive scale.
It will continue taking place with or without the pharmaceuticals sector. Engaging with users on social media allows the industry enter that conversation and manage it, which is why as Canvin pointed out, it’s becoming a valuable tool in the arsenal of the pharma industry for reputation management.
How did Boehringer Ingelheim raise its profile on social media?
We can turn back to Boehringer Ingelheim to see how a company can develop a positive reputation online by using social media. Last year, FierceBiotechIT reported that the German firm was commended by Twitter itself for how it used tweet chats on the social media site.
The pharma company wanted to raise its profile for the 2014 European Respiratory Society Congress (ERSC) by starting a conversation around chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It paid for promotional tweets and used the #COPDChat hashtag.
The strategy worked. The company’s account was the most mentioned username throughout Congress, which led to a 7% rise in the number of people following Boehringer on Twitter. Meanwhile the tweet chat had a total of 1.7 million impressions over the course of the campaign.
This positioned Boehringer Ingelheim as a thought leader, allowing them to manage the conversation around their brand and facilitate a positive reputation online. This is why the Pharma sector is increasingly turning to social media to build their corporate reputation.
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