After having looked at pharma’s use of twitter, I decided to also get a feel for how pharma is engaging with facebook so far. Three main uses emerge: 1. connecting employees, 2. attracting talent and 3. promoting disease awareness or treatment adherence
1. Connecting current and ex- employees definately has the most activity. Numerous official and unofficial groups or fan pages bring together the employees of most of the top pharma companies. For the purpose of this analysis let me concentrate the largest groups with apparent corporate endorsement (ie. use of official logo, links to company website and corporate messaging in group purpose).
Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer/Wyeth and Roche seem to be leading the pack in terms of activity. Sanofi and Novartis both set up official fan pages with over one thousand members. Lots of employee activism as well at Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Novartis and Wyeth with facebook groups of 500+ members. (Check out this video from the official BI facebook group, just for fun).
Other, not so active groups: AstraZeneca (also have an English and French fan page), Teva, GSK (French fan page), Lilly, JNJ, and Pfizer.
Interestingly, there are a number of unofficial “Pfizer“ groups expressing negative sentiment towards the company (most of it coming from layed off employees). Pfizer is also the only company that someone set up a group about them, called “conversations of Pfizer“. Not much activity unfortunately, but intersting concept nevertheless.
Another strange aside: Egytian and Turkish country groups seem to exist for basically every pharma company I researched, must be a cultural thing?
2. Regarding attracting talent, there is an overwhelming number of student, intern and training program groups for all companies; most of them probably not official. GSK seems to have the largest number of student groups, a lot of them private. Merck also stands out for its excellent Merck Careers fan page, well done, I think, but not much activity, yet.
3. Promoting disesase awareness is where I believe things finally get interesting for patients. Examples of pharma companies using facebook to drive disease awareness and treatment adherence aare not bountiful, but I did find two great examples.
The first example is the ADHD Moms group, sponsored by McNeil Pediatrics, a JNJ company. The group counts close to 8000 members, but, for me, it is not these numbers that make the group exciting. By setting up this fan page, McNeil has done a great job at creating an environment in which patients/caregivers can receive valuable information concerning treatment management and adherence, while staying within the pharma “comfort zone“.
The concept is simple. One Pediatrician and three ADHD moms, as well as “guest writers“ discuss topics of importance to raising a child with ADHD. There are polls to each topic to get the audience’s feedback, while avoiding thorny legal issues such as adverse event reporting or off-label usage. The site also offers a podcast series and links to prominent ADHD organizaions.
The second example comes from Novartis Zometa product. It is called: Marica Strassman Takes Role as Patient Advocate. In this group, celebrity and breast cancer survivor Marcia Strassman takes on the mission to “inform breast cancer patients and caregivers about the importance of following treatment regiments outlined by their doctors “. Thus a clear focus on promoting disease awareness and treatment adherence.
The setup up is also highly transparant, clearly disclosing Zometa sponsorship with links to the Zometa homepage, product information and the facebook groupe mission:“ To educate patients with advanced breast cancer and other metastatic cancers about the risks and benefits of Zometa.“
This fan page, like the ADHD example, features links to the most prominent cancer organizations as a further resources for patients. Also, similar to the ADHD page, this site does not allow any comments from its members to prevent any legal issues.
So overall, highly encouraging signs that pharma is starting to use facebook. Most companies still seem to first experiment with more internally focused groups, but some are starting to “test the waters“ and to engage with patients on important topics like disease awareness and treatment adherence.
Silja Chouquet is the owner and CEO of whydot GmbH, an agency specialized in social media consulting, coaching and training. Her fields of expertise are the creation of patient-focused social media communications and marketing campaigns. She runs the whydotpharma blog where she discusses social media and the life sciences and other pharma-related topics.