The global social media footprint and online presence of 25 pharma companies were analysed by the Worldcom Public Relations Group, for its recently released Digital Health Monitor.
Twelve digital channels were assessed for each of the companies, including websites, blogs, apps, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr.
As well as examining the firms' performances on a global basis in 2018, the report looked at how they fared in 20 countries.
Overall ratings were given for each company, with Bayer the best-performing firm.
It was joined by Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis and Sanofi in the top five. Gilead was rated the worst digital performer, with Shire, Teva Pharmaceutical, Mylan and Baxter International in the bottom five.
In terms of the use of individual digital channels, there was some variation, with Pfizer the best at using YouTube, while Novartis was ranked as the top user for LinkedIn.
Room for improvement
However, the report found that none of the companies used social-media channels to their maximum advantage.
"The pharma industry has not yet woken up to the opportunity provided by social channels to educate and inform its audiences and to build a brand following," it said. "Many companies may be squandering opportunities to get their messages across."
Although all 25 companies analysed have a global website, many of them do not have local sites in all the countries surveyed and they make little use of blogs. However, most have efficient apps, the report found.
Twitter is favoured over Facebook, despite having a fraction of the latter's users.
The vast majority of social-media activity undertaken by pharma firms is on Twitter, which accounts for 90 per cent, and Facebook, which accounts for nine per cent.
And although YouTube is the world's second-biggest search engine, the platform is not part of the standard comms of most pharma firms, the report said.
"A very striking fact is that YouTube and Instagram, respectively the second- and sixth-largest social channels globally, are heavily underrepresented," it said.
The report found that the use of the remaining social media channels was "so low among our pharmaceutical companies that it is of little use to discuss them separately".
It stated that pharma firms should have "an integrated global social communications strategy to ensure that opportunities are not being missed".
The report also examined some 38,000 posts about pharma. It revealed that the most popular hashtags included #corruption and #bribery.
"This indicates the need for pharma companies to review the various channels for crisis- and reputation-management purposes."
In terms of the "sentiment" of the posts, while some 87 per cent were classed as neutral, 11 per cent were negative. Just two per cent were judged to be positive.
The report concluded that companies should create careers channels on YouTube to help attract prospective staff; review their use of the digital channels most used by their target audiences; and audit their digital footprint.
Serge Beckers, chairman of Worldcom’s Healthcare practice group and author of the report, said: "While we recognise 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."
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