Pfizer takes lead in race for social media clout

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Drugmakers all over the world are boosting their campaigns on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, building followings in hopes of advancing certain business objectives. A new study shows that U.S. drug giant Pfizer ($PFE) pulled ahead of its peers on Twitter and most of them on Facebook. Social networking is more than just a pastime for pharma marketers: Facebook, for instance, has become one of the hot frontiers for clinical trials patient recruitment and putting a friendly face on drug companies' work in certain areas of disease research.

Paris-based Cegedim Strategic Data (CSD) ranked the social networking statuses of major pharma outfits and compared how their overall promotional spending compares with their followings on Facebook and Twitter. Not surprisingly, Pfizer managed to match its industry-leading promotional budget with the most Twitter followers of any pharma group, and the drugmaker took third in the number of "Likes" on Facebook. But promotional spending didn't always equate to social media status, according to the study, which showed that Swiss drug giant Roche ($RHHBY) is second only to Pfizer in Twitter followers and ranked 15th in overall promotional spending.

Drug companies aren't always rewarded fairly for efforts on social media platforms—in terms of the number of tweets registered and pages created on Facebook. Merck ($MRK), for instance, put up the most pages of any drugmaker on Facebook but ranks 10th in the number of "Likes" among pharma companies. The Whitehouse Station, NJ-based drugmaker has pumped out the third-most tweets among its peers yet ranks behind 14 of them in the number of Twitter followers.

These numbers might cause some pharma marketers to scratch their heads, as many drugmakers are trying to figure out what role platforms such as Facebook and Twitter should play in their overall promotional efforts. Will these Twitter and Facebook numbers impact the bottom line? And not helping matters, drug companies are navigating the social media realm without clear instructions from the FDA on how exactly to proceed without falling into hot water with the agency.

"The CSD social media audit shows clearly that most major life science companies are establishing a presence in social media," stated Christopher Wooden, CSD's vice president of promotion audits, "but coverage, methods and sophistication do vary significantly."

- here's CSD's release 

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Editor's note: This story is a modified version of an article that appeared in FiercePharma on Dec. 19.