Boehringer responds to the Ogilvy pharma social media audit

Last week, pharmaphorum published the results of Ogilvy’s social media audit of pharmaceutical companies, with Boehringer Ingelheim emerging as highly engaged, so we caught up with its social media leads to hear what is driving their activities.

Ogilvy Healthworld published the results from its social media audit of leading pharmaceutical companies last week, looking at which organisations were more deeply engaged in these online channels and what the trends were between late 2012 and late 2013. In doing so, two groups of companies emerged – the social media butterflies, leading pharma’s engagement via social media, and the wallflowers, who are taking things a bit more steadily.

In response to the audit, we wanted to hear directly from a couple of pharmaceutical companies who emerged in the ‘butterfly’ camp, to hear what had driven their deeper engagement and what lessons they have learned in being more active in social media. Here, pharmaphorum’s Paul Tunnah speaks with Patricia Alves and Jaclyn Fonteyne, from Boehringer Ingelheim’s social media team, to hear exactly how they are driving social engagement within their organisation.

“At Boehringer, we think content is definitely king”

Interview summary

PT: Were you surprised to come out so highly in the Ogilvy survey?

PA/JF: We were very pleased to see the result of the social media audit. It was so interesting to see how the pharma social media landscape has changed from 2012-2013, and also to see companies such as ourselves grow within the space.

As a company and social media team, we see a lot of value in innovation, and we strive to be very innovative in the social media sphere. It’s very rewarding to see these efforts pay off and to be ranked so highly as well as named a ‘social media butterfly’ in the Ogilvy social media survey.

PT: Why do you think Boehringer is coming out as a social media butterfly’? What specific initiatives do you think have contributed to this?

PA/JF: Ogilvy is defining a social media butterfly as a company which is active on multiple networks, consistently and regularly broadcasting, sharing content and engaging in dialogue within their community.

At Boehringer, we think content is definitely king. For each and every network that we establish (we are now on six) we make sure that we have a reviewed and approved content plan in place for each one. It’s also very important to have an approved content plan that will engage the audience and spread important information to those following our social channels.

One unique initiative that we think has contributed to our success in 2013 is our tweetchats. Through tweetchats, which are organised discussions around a specific topic using a specific hashtag on Twitter, we aim to engage with key stakeholders to raise awareness and to facilitate the social media conversation around a disease area. Using this approach, we have had the ability to share interesting content and engage in dialogue across lots of relevant communities. They have been a great social media initiative for us in 2013.

“One unique initiative that we think has contributed to our success in 2013 is our tweetchats”

PT: How have you dealt with concerns over ensuring regulatory compliance to allow social media engagement to occur?

PA/JF: In order for social media activities to work well, it’s important to have everyone on board. We’ve dealt with concerns over ensuring regulatory compliance by working very closing with our legal colleagues and regulatory counterparts. Not only is every tweet or post published by us approved, but also all responses and subsequent engagements are also checked for compliance. Our teams understand how important two-way engagement is, and that responses are necessary for questions and comments raised in social media.

PT: What are the most important pieces of advice you would give to other pharma companies looking to become more social?

PA/JF: Rather than giving advice, we would just like to give our general process and key learnings. As noted, the pharmaceutical industry is extremely regulated and we cannot control specific company environments around social media. All we can do is share our learnings with those interested.

One key learning is the importance of having a cross-functional team that is aligned for all social media activity. This includes not only communications or marketing but also important communication and review with medical and legal colleagues. It’s imperative to have everyone on board before publishing anything.

Hand in hand with having good communication in a cross-functional team, is also the planning of content and content approvals. Always think ahead. If you know it will take a week to pass content through the approval process, then give your team a week and a half before the start date of the content plan.

“Being social has provided another avenue of communication for Boehringer”

Another key learning is to focus on the importance of engagement. One big complaint with social media in pharmaceuticals is that you cannot measure the return on investment, as regulators have made sure that all social media activities are non-promotional. That’s why our communications focus is on sharing news and spreading awareness about diseases, and our key success factor there is how much engagement a post or tweet received. It’s important to understand how many people are seeing and interacting with your content.

PT: What has being social done for Boehringer?

PA/JF: Being social has provided another avenue of communication for Boehringer. We have been able to spread news and raise awareness about our disease areas in new and relevant channels. We know that our relevant stakeholders are using social media more and more, and it’s important they are able to not only access our news and information, but also find it engaging and interesting.

Through social we have able to explore new and innovative ways to communicate about news and awareness in relevant disease areas, and have worked to make sure these new ways are effective and engaging for our followers in social media!

To download the full survey results click here

About the interviewees:

The Corporate Social Media Team at Boehringer comprises of Patricia Alves and Jaclyn Fonteyne. Between them, they spearhead the planning and implementation of Boehringer’s social media activities across the global organisation, working with internal teams across all of its different therapeutic areas and liaising with closely with communications, marketing, medical and legal.

For more information on Boehringer Ingelheim please visit:

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Closing thought: What is Boehringer doing differently in pharma social media?