The three ways in which Pharma uses Facebook

Written by Silja on 23 February 2009 in other musings - 19 Comments

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), TevaGSK (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 interesting 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 transparent, 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.

PS.: I would love to hear from you about more examples of pharma facebook use, please help me add to this list ;-)

19 Comments on "The three ways in which Pharma uses Facebook"

  1. Jonathan Richman 23 February 2009 at 19 h 24 min ·

    Good overview.

    You didn’t include the biggest pharma group on Facebook (as far as my research can tell). It’s the page for Gardasil (

    It has over 102,000 (yes, thousand) members. Pretty big group by any standard. I think they do a great job of making a Facebook page that doesn’t look like Facebook. This is something I’ve seen almost every brand (not just pharma) do poorly. Just because it’s on Facebook doesn’t mean you can’t apply a little design work.


  2. Eileen O'Brien 24 February 2009 at 15 h 19 min ·

    Thanks for a nice summary.

    One interesting Facebook page is the Acuminder application which reminds users when it’s time to change contact lenses, reorder them and go to the eye doctor. J&J used Facebook as another way to utilize a widget they developed to promote their Acuvue contacts.


  3. Pierre-Yves 27 February 2009 at 10 h 46 min ·

    Great post! here’s another example of pharma company involvement on facebook, in a mix of 2/attracting talents 3/raising awareness… but not on a disease. Last year Abbott has run the ‘LabsAreVital’ campaign on scientific/medical career shortage, using facebook & youtube.
    1.9 million students were reached according to Abbott.

    here’s the facebook page :

  4. zanskar 1 March 2009 at 23 h 03 min ·

    Very interesting article. I have made a brief synthesis in my blog, please feel free to add any comments or corrections if you do not agree !

  5. Carly 1 April 2009 at 14 h 35 min ·

    As a resourcing company recruiting for many of the pharmaceutical companies you have mentioned, it has been necessary to adapt to the ways in which social networking has changed the job search process, and will continue to do so as user numbers increase. With our own facebook group, STAR – pharmaceutical, healthcare and medical sales jobs, the emphasis is not on attracting masses of members, but on simply making ourselves as accessible as possible to as many relevant individuals as possible. The issue of anonymity in our case is of course crucial – whilst many people view and apply for our jobs posted on facebook, they do not join the group becayse they able to protect their identity from colleagues etc. Facebook for STAR is about catching the passive job hunter, perhaps somebody who isn’t necessarily actively looking, but would be open to the right opportunity if it cropped up. We’re exploring facebook with the necessary trepidation as it remains to be seen how effective it will be for us, as with Twitter.

    For anybody interested, our job tweets can be found on twitter by following STARMedical.

  6. Tiphaine de Frémont 17 September 2009 at 15 h 49 min ·

    TY for this great post again ! I find your overview really interesting, and most of the time, it could be similar for other non-pharma companies ! Moreover, Facebook is the first step for many companies to communicate in SM.
    However I would like to suggest you an other type of distinction between Fan Pages / Groups / Or even (if they’re existing) applications. Would you have an idea of the repartition of each type of uses ?

    Best regards,

  7. Silja 17 September 2009 at 15 h 54 min ·

    Thanks Tiphaine for comment. I do not think I made that distinction, but great suggestion ;-)

  8. Scott Lansing 26 October 2009 at 17 h 54 min ·

    Great post. Currently researching Pharma’s Facebook possibilities and glad I stumbled upon this. Thanks for the insight.

  9. Caroline Bryant 30 June 2010 at 15 h 36 min ·

    the good thing about choosing a medical career is that it is a high paying job.,”‘

  10. Alyssa Thompson 12 September 2010 at 14 h 02 min ·

    medical career is one of the highest paying jobs on these days*-;

  11. Dzjvcmay 4 July 2011 at 12 h 45 min ·

    earth sign tattoos,

  12. Christian 14 September 2011 at 8 h 12 min ·

    I have to appreciation for the efforts you’ve made in writing this write-up. It has been an encouragement to me. I’ve passed this onto a friend. thankyou

  13. {Angie 10 October 2011 at 9 h 02 min ·

    Thanks Silja for the share

  14. Mike 11 October 2011 at 19 h 04 min ·

    Thanks Silja for the share

  15. seche cheveux professionnel 19 July 2016 at 17 h 04 min ·

    En effet, j’ai pu le tester et c’est vraiment top!
    Extrêmement facile d’utilisation.

Trackbacks for this post

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