Big Pharma Companies Doing Social Media Well

We have a look at Big Pharma's most prominent Twitter accounts to see who is doing well, and what they are doing.

Social media marketing for pharmaceutical companies isn’t always easy, at times it can be difficult and sometimes progress on platforms is slow. But companies can succeed on social media and generate results, mostly related to awareness and public relations.

I have collated a list of big pharma companies that do well with social media, where, as you will see, Twitter is the preferred platform for many of the companies with supporting accounts used to amplify the content.

The following will look at some of big pharma's most prominent companies - Merck & Co, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, GSK, Pfizer, UCB, Boehringer Ingelheim and Bayer - and identifying some of the elements that make their social media accounts successful and a sample of the content shared on the platform.


Merck’s primary social focus is Twitter, and with over 170k followers they make more posts on this social platform than any other. As a guide, last month, Merck produced 33 posts to their Twitter account and 3 to their Facebook account. 33 posts within a month might not seem a lot when compared to Hootsuite's study last year which found that brands on average Tweeted 122 times per month, but when compared to others within the pharmaceutical industry, 30-40 is the ballpark figure.

To receive engagement and likes, that can translate into further impressions, exposure and shares, content needs to be of high quality for followers to interact with. And the more of this good content you post the more likely you are to get this extra engagement. This content, as can be seen on Merck's Twitter timeline, doesn't always have to refer back to its pharma products and services. Merck succeeds with Twitter because of the use of the personable content that relates to a wider range of interests as well as the mixed content formats that include GIFS, videos and other interactive content.


Novartis like most companies, and based on Talkwater data, appear to be focusing on improving their social media engagement before the increase in engagement for the last 30 days (from when we first published this post). Organisations should always strive for improvement and every month should be at least slightly better than the last as Novartis had a 41.5% increase on the previous month.

SOURCE:  Omnicore

SOURCE: Omnicore

The content Novartis produces varies dramatically - experimenting with a number of different content formats when compared to Merck & Co. We were able to identify 10 Novartis Twitter accounts, all of which publish regular content to their range of followers across their accounts.

They include patient views, partner stories, interviews, Q&As as well as sponsoring Twitter events in an attempt to engage with their followers, as well as engaging in dialogue with those who reach out to them. Novartis succeed with Twitter because they see Twitter as a two-way channel and are happy to engage in conversation with followers and their use of multiple accounts to serve Novartis' specific audiences.


Similarity, Twitter is the account that Novo Nordisk uses to connect with their audience. They publish posts on their Twitter account often, all of which are varied and they are quite happy to retweet content from other accounts, something that you may not see often with large organisations within pharma. Retweeting is just as important as creating your own content because it shows you are invested in your audience and that their content is appreciated.

There are two things to take away from Novo Nordisk's social media accounts. Firstly, know what platform to use; you can see that Novo Nordisk spend more time on Twitter and that’s because they know their audience is there and that receives engagement. Secondly, content variation is important - which is a key theme for most of our big pharma examples - so make sure to retweet content from the people you are following, which will show that you are invested in your clients and the content they share.


You don’t necessarily have to make a million posts to get a lot of engagement. If you want people to share your content, then you need to look at quality over quantity. GlaxoSmithKline was amongst the first wave of pharmaceutical organisations to adopt Twitter. GSK has since developed a successful social media (as well as social monitoring and listening) strategy, engaging with its followers and those who approach the organisation’s profiles looking for help.


Posting interesting content about your company and the achievements you're making is the type of content people are going to engage with. If those people join the conversation, contribute further. These people are following you because they care about what happens in your company. GSK succeed, like Novartis, in engaging with their followers and turning the platform into a valuable platform for feedback, and not just treating the platform as a one-way broadcast.


Trying to keep people talking about you is difficult but Pfizer has developed a social media strategy to do just that. Like the graph below demonstrates, you want to keep a steady pace of mentions you don’t need people talking about you all the time but try keeping your brand a relevant topic of conversation. Pfizer also has a number of Twitter accounts that make this possible, ranging from patient to investor accounts, to accounts that vary across geographic regions.

SOURCE: Talkwater

SOURCE: Talkwater

Pfizer launched their "Get Old" campaign on social media which, in social marketing terms, went viral. The campaign is a candid discussion about ageing through engaging and informative content, hoping to inspire new dreams for new beginnings for the elderly community. Campaigns as such, along with other content - such as events, educational pieces as well as interactive content - have contributed to Pfizer gaining the larges combined following on its accounts on this list of big pharma companies.


UCB makes good use of all their social platforms, and although their following is significantly smaller than others on this list, UCB are active on all of them. And although they focus on all their social media profiles you can see the dominant one is Twitter, UCB show that you can have a main social media channel and still be active on your other sites to support and amplify the content.

UCB focus on bringing their followers closer to their company; to their brand, values, products and their employees, via all their social media profiles. Remember that all your social sites have some followers and you can’t forget about them, if you don’t want to make posts on a certain platform anymore then I would suggest deleting the account because it looks bad if people check the page and you last posted two months ago.


Boehringer Ingelheim post similar content to much of the above, but it seems, that their followers are really liking Boehringer Ingelheim Twitter content. A high social media sentiment is difficult to achieve as not everyone will like what your organisation has to say (or will want to provide such feedback) but Boehringer Ingelheim, according to Talkwater, has a very strong 81% of positive sentiment. People like what they have to say, and by looking at their various Twitter accounts, it's easy to see why.

It is important to calculate sentiment because it can provide you with insight into your audience and it will help you provide better customer service. There are lots of software that can help you calculate your audience sentiment, such as Talkwalker, Hootsuite and Digimind.


There is no correlation between the number of posts made and the number of comments received for Bayer. Positive comments are difficult to receive on social media, but nonetheless, Bayer are a great example of how to receive those comments, they make lots of posts with questions that invite followers to share opinions.

Making posts that include questions is a good way to engage the audience and get valuable information, and many big pharma companies are doing so... and there could be an opportunity for the B2B market to follow suit. People like to express their opinions so give them the option to do so in as many way as possible. You might just see an increase in metrics across the board.


There are simple practices you can follow to try and get your Twitter and social media accounts to the top of its game. Make sure you post content on a regular basis and avoid leaving it weeks between posts. Every month there should be an improvement on the last and if it's not you need to ask yourself why, what can be done better? Plan ahead.

Try to vary the content you post, post your own content but also share the content of the people your following. Always remember that quality is more important than quantity if you make interesting and informative posts you are more likely to get a positive engagement. Include questions in your posts and give people the opportunity to comment on their opinions using hashtags, for example.

If you have multiple social media accounts then it is important you are active on all of them and use the appropriate tone of voice and subsequent content for each. Do not mix up accounts and key messages.

Finally, learn the sentiment of your audience (by first knowing who your audiences are and where they are from) because knowing what they think will either help you to improve their opinion or sustain the opinion they already have.