Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boehringer vs Facebook Social Media Socialism

Now that Facebook's new commenting policy is forcing every pharmaceutical to rethink it's Facebook strategy -- ie, take down all disease-specific pages but keep corporate pages -- many drug companies are revising their corporate FB pages.

Boehringer-Ingelheim (BI) stands out in its attempt to stand out from the crowd of pharma FB pages by designing a colorful Welcome page and icons (see image below; click on image for enlarged view).

Compare this with Pfizer's Info page:

Pfizer's page is an example of the sameness seen in almost every Facebook page created by dolts like you and me who cannot afford to allocate resources on customizing our pages. It's what I call "social media socialism" -- the least common denominator available to all users (regardless of their ability or resources) that satisfies a minimal need: ie, to have a presence on Facebook.

Boehringer's FB page, however, shows what you can do with dedicated resources and creativity.

Yet it's still a mystery to me how Pfizer is able to have 31,656 "likes" versus BI's paltry 13,008 "likes." Yes, Pfizer is probably much more widely known among the general population than is BI. But even the #2 pharma company (GSK) has only 14,074 "likes" (Astrazeneca has 10,035 "likes").

BI and AZ are doing almost everything right in social media in terms of allocating resources and engaging in conversations (see "OMG! AstraZeneca Hosts Twitter Chat & World Does NOT End!", for example), yet they are not getting the ROI -- in terms of numbers of followers and "likes" -- that Pfizer gets. Recall that Pfizer has NO dedicated social media resources and does NOT engage in meaningful SM conversation (see "Pharma Tweets: Followers Trump Content. Pfizer vs. Sanofi Case Study" and "Pfizer, Show Us Your Social Media 'Playbook'").

Something's not right.

[This post originally appeared in Pharma Marketing Blog
Make sure you are reading the source to get the latest comments.]


  1. Facebook doesn't let you see the full list of people who like corporate pages, just those who are your own FB friends. But when I checked this, *every* one of my friends who Liked Pfizer was an ad-agency person. I wonder what proportion of that 31K are people who derive income from Pfizer (vendors, employees, consultants, etc.). I do know that other agencies for other brands at other companies have actively solicited their employees and their social circles to Like pharma brand pages they have created. (I was actually spammed not once but twice for one particular brand...they must have had a quarterly review coming up.)

  2. Bruce,

    Yes, I suspect Pfizer has its employees "like" it on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. I noticed a spike of several thousand Twitter followers of @pfizer_news in just 2-3 days around Christmas time a couple of years ago. An XMAS gift from employees?

  3. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Awesome. Thanks for proving the point I was making last week - you can create a more personal, branded experience for your audience on Facebook - you don't have to stick to the Facebook template.

    In terms of using followers and likes to define ROI of social media, I think that those volume metrics aren't totally able to capture the return or value a brand gets from Facebook or other social media programs. Pfizer's employees dwarf BI (110K v. 42K, according to Wikipedia), and that alone tips the scales many times.

    I think engagement (how many interactions with a brand FB post occurred?), traffic driven, event/promotion participation, or even social media monitoring data around share of voice and sentiment are what need to be measured to understand the ROI of social media.

  4. Anon,

    Right. "likes" and followers are not the ONLY ROI measure for SM, but they just happen to be the most frequently cited measures right now, at least in data that is made publicly available. All else seems proprietary!

  5. Hi John,

    You have to applaud BI on their recent redesigns. I've read so much about Pharma companies rethinking Facebook engagement right now that it's great to see Boehringer rolling with the punches and readjusting to the new comment policy.

    Our Anonymous friend beat me to the punch regarding the benefits of engagement and sentiment. BI and AZ are keeping active and engaged at a time when several articles and commenters are focusing on Pharma "running away" from Facebook. That really isn't the case, however, as Boehringer and Astra are demonstrating.

    Keep the great coverage coming,

    Jason Boies

  6. "BI and AZ are doing almost everything right in social media in terms of allocating resources and engaging in conversations, yet they are not getting the ROI -- in terms of numbers of followers and "likes" -- that Pfizer gets."

    Whiel I certainly understand the limitations in measuring social media ROI, I think this statement fails to take into account opportunity cost. How much MORE followers and likes does BI or AZ have as a result of their groomed social media presence? How much MORE engagement are they creating? Sure, Pfizer (or most mega-companies) can probably turn the cold shoulder to social media and still get thousands upon thousands of followers / likes. That doesn't mean that the smaller companies that put in the effort but don't match the MegaCo numbers are doing anything wrong.

    To a large extent, it's to be expected. What is considered a "good ROI" is going to be different case-by-case.


    Carlton Hoyt
    BioBM Consulting

  7. Nice observation! I think Boehringer-Ingelheim have a good FB page!

  8. Pfizer 31K VS BI 13K?
    Viagra did it :)


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