Big Pharma is missing out on social media opps—who’s leading the sector?

by | Sep 27, 2019 | Public Relations

New research from independent PR firm network The Worldcom Public Relations Group suggests many large pharmaceutical companies are not optimizing online and social media communications to their advantage—and identifies how 25 global pharmaceutical firms manage their online and social media presence globally and in 20 countries.

“Our first Digital Health Monitor has uncovered interesting trends and several lost opportunities, and while we recognize there are limitations to what can be said and where it can be said, we recommend a more holistic view be taken with channels available,” said Serge Beckers, chairman of Worldcom’s Healthcare practice group, in a news release. “Simple steps, such as using YouTube to build the employer brand, can help pharma companies compete in the increasingly tough battle for talent.”

Worldcom’s inauguralDigital Health Monitor report ranks each company in terms of their presence on, and the use of, Apps, Blogs Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube. It also reviewed the use of these channels by country. Pfizer, for example, came out on top for the use of YouTube, while Novartis ranked as top user for LinkedIn. The report found, however, that none of the companies used these channels to maximum advantage.

Combined social channel ranking:

Big Pharma is missing out on social media opps—who’s leading the sector?

The report also examined messages about pharmaceutical companies and those issued by the companies reviewed. While most are neutral, there are a number of negative messages around topics such as opioid abuse, bribery and corruption.

The report offers five recommendations to improve ROI from online communications

  • Companies should ensure there is a careers channel on YouTube where ‘advocate employees’ can post reviews of their experiences to promote an ‘employer brand’. This will help win the battle for talent.
  • Review the usage of the digital channels most used by target audiences. Companies should ensure their brand is present at both a global and local level.
  • Compare one’s digital ‘footprint’ to that of your peers and competitors. This audit will help ensure companies are not losing ground by missing opportunities to share permitted information across all available channels.
  • Invest in each local market by investing in appropriate local digital channels. This helps demonstrate that companies care about each local market.
  • Companies should use the analysis from online monitoring to identify topics where it’s essential they have an opinion and share that opinion on a proactive basis.

Key findings from the report:


All pharmaceutical companies in the study have a worldwide website, but many of them do not offer local websites in all countries surveyed. This is a lost opportunity to demonstrate that specific countries and their populations matter to the brand.


Internationally, pharmaceutical companies make little use of blogs. Although almost all pharmaceuticals have a ‘global blog,’ the number of blog posts is fairly modest. Local blogs are rare.


Most pharmaceutical companies have efficient, target group centered apps.

Social media

Twitter is preferred to Facebook. All pharmaceutical companies in our list have an international Twitter account. Two companies do not have an international Facebook page.

Top 25 hashtags about pharma:

Big Pharma is missing out on social media opps—who’s leading the sector?


Accounts are present, but no pharmaceutical company reaches 50 percent of the available score. This is mainly due to the fact that country-specific pages on LinkedIn are not common.


Given that YouTube is the second largest search engine, it is surprising that this platform does not seem to belong to the standard communication arsenal of most pharmaceutical companies. Local YouTube accounts are available in only a handful of countries.

The use of the remaining channels, i.e., Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, and Tumblr is modest.

Download the full report here.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter