Pharma gets social: the world’s best social media of 2012?

Daniel Ghinn

Creation Healthcare

Daniel Ghinn’s latest column looks at the many different pharma social media and digital initiatives in 2012, including Boehringer Ingelheim’s social game Syrum and AstraZeneca’s science blog LabTalk, as the nominations begin for the Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards 2013.

(Continued from “Pharma gets social: diffusion of pharma social media innovators”)

As we head towards the end of a year in which we have seen digital channel use among pharmaceutical companies continue to mature, I have already started to look back at some of the pharmaceutical digital initiatives that have defined 2012. In my monthly column here, ‘Pharma Gets Social’, I have reviewed some of the year’s initiatives, but there is so much more innovation taking place in this space too. With the call for nominations for the 2013 Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards having just launched, it’s a good time to look back at the kinds of pharmaceutical initiatives that might be nominated.

Use of social media by pharmaceutical companies has always featured in the Awards, which recognise healthcare engagement that achieves great outcomes. Early winners included Johnson &amp, Johnson’s YouTube channel launched in 2008, and Pfizer’s ‘Get Real’ anti-counterfeit initiative from 2009.

At the start of this year in this column, I reviewed a number of winners recognised in the last Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards, including AstraZeneca’s #rxsave Twitter chat and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page.

Anybody can nominate an initiative for the Awards, simply by tweeting using hashtag #hesawards. This year, I expect to see the number of initiatives from pharmaceutical companies to continue to grow, as companies have deliberately integrated digital channels into their strategies.


“This year, I expect to see the number of initiatives from pharmaceutical companies to continue to grow…”


Let’s take a very quick look at just a few potential nominees among pharmaceutical social media initiatives from 2012 – and then why not add your own ideas by commenting? Which pharma initiatives of 2012 do you think are worthy of a mention?

Corporate communications

Among the many examples of social media use among pharmaceutical corporate communications initiatives, Pfizer has built its Facebook presence to integrate with other channels such as its blog, GlaxoSmithKline’s Facebook page provided a hub for engagement around its sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Johnson &amp, Johnson’s corporate channels, including its blog JNJBTW, are now well-established components of a multichannel corporate engagement strategy.

Boehringer Ingelheim has continued to carry out rich engagement and to try new approaches, this year launching social game Syrum, in which players experience the highs and lows of drug discovery.

We have also seen new initiatives launched for two-way social media engagement among targeted groups, such as AstraZeneca’s recently-launched ‘LabTalk’ blog for scientists, inside and outside the company, to share ideas. It will be interesting to observe what outcomes are achieved from AstraZeneca’s vision to make its research more transparent to potential collaborators.

Meanwhile, Bayer has continued to develop its presence in new social media platforms, being among the first pharmaceutical companies to experiment with Pinterest and Google+.


“Interesting therapy-area initiatives have included Sanofi’s rich set of social media resources around diabetes…”


Interesting therapy-area initiatives have included Sanofi’s rich set of social media resources around diabetes, while Boehringer Ingelheim has used its now well-established corporate platforms as channels to support its communication around respiratory diseases, stroke and cardiology.

We have seen physician engagement tactics continue to develop, and new tools launched. This year, Pfizer Germany launched a dedicated resource for healthcare professionals in the country,, providing CME and product information to authenticated physicians.

Social, mobile, local

A trend we have seen in other areas of healthcare engagement is the ongoing blurring of lines between social, mobile, location-based technologies and other emerging channels. Social media rarely exists in a void, but comes to life when integrated with the devices we use every day, in the places where we use them.

Whilst the examples I have mentioned so far have focused on pharmaceutical companies’ use of social media, there is much innovation taking place among other health stakeholders too, making for exciting competition for the Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards this year.

Among my favourite examples so far are some innovative personal health tracking tools, such as Massive Health’s The Eatery app, which combines crowdsourcing with a form of gamification to rate your diet between ‘fat’ and ‘fit’ based upon the opinions of others. Or, for the more independent, MyFitnessPal allows dieters to scan the barcode of food packaging to track dietary information on what they are eating. MyFitnessPal also integrates with Internet health products such as Withings’ Internet Body Scales or Blood Pressure monitor.


“…we have also seen many more healthcare professionals take social media into their own hands this year…”


Meanwhile, we have also seen many more healthcare professionals take social media into their own hands this year, with an acceleration of the rate at which doctors worldwide are collaborating using open social media platforms including blogs, forums and microblogging. In response to this trend, the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UK, launched a consultation into guidance for doctors on social media, recognising the changing role of digital channels in the lives of doctors.

One thing is for certain: the race for recognition as the most effective healthcare engagement strategies of 2012 is certainly on and I am looking forward to sharing stories behind the winning strategies in February.

If you know of initiatives that deserve recognition, why not share them by commenting below?




About the author:

Daniel Ghinn is CEO at Creation Healthcare, the research and training consultancy to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. He can be reached at by Twitter at @EngagementStrat or by email

Which pharma social media initiatives of 2012 do you recommend?