Pharma's social media activity is up, but there's still work to be done on audience insights: Review

Pharma companies' social media posts versus engagement for first 6 months of 2016. Source: Ogilvy Healthworld

The good news is that pharma is solidly onboard with social media use. The not-as-good news is that most companies still have work to do in understanding their social media audiences, according to the latest Social Check-up by Ogilvy Healthworld, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth.

The group partnered with Pulsar for its third annual review of pharma social media use, with researchers expanding this year from 13 companies to include the 20 largest pharma companies by revenue. They evaluated each one’s corporate social media presence, including the number, type and content theme of posts across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Novo Nordisk ranked at the top with the highest social media engagement numbers, while Allergan, Teva, Takeda, Gilead and Astellas all ranked pretty closely together among those with the lowest engagement.

However, simply putting out the most content didn’t always equate with better engagement. Eli Lilly, for example, posted the most content by pure number of posts during the 6-month period study, but the Indianapolis drugmaker only ranked slightly above average in engagement.

In general, the average pharma company’s use of social media tracks closely with general business posting rates, the researchers said. Every week, the pharma companies averaged 7 Facebook posts, 26 Tweets, one YouTube video and four Instagram posts.

As far as what those posts contained, Ogilvy CommonHealth found that 29% were about disease awareness, followed by 25% company news, 19% around meetings and events, 13% corporate social responsibility, 8% product and research updates, 2% pharma industry news with the remaining 3% other topics.

But once again, more didn’t always equal more. Disease awareness was the most common theme in pharma social media content, but engagement with consumers on those posts was fairly low, said digital strategist and study author Rick Evans. Company news had the highest engagement rate, followed by corporate social responsibility posts.

“It’s difficult to say exactly without going through each pharma and analyzing their audiences, but it would appear that either they don’t really know who their audiences are so they’re not pitching the appropriate content, or it could be that they’re not necessarily attracting the audience they want,” he said.

Rebecca Canvin, social media director at Ogilvy Healthworld, said that means it’s up to pharma companies to make sure their posts are reaching the right audience--and to possibly use tools such as paid social media to help do that.

“I think it’s time to stop saying pharma is such a highly regulated industry and limited in what they can do on social media, and start recognizing pharma companies are using social media and some of them really well,” she said.

Special Report: Top 10 pharma companies in social media

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