The Big Brand Theory: How Is Social Media Reshaping Pfizer?

Paul Dunay Financial Services Marketing Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Posted on August 12th 2013

The Big Brand Theory: How Is Social Media Reshaping Pfizer?


I had a chance to sit down with Bob Libbey the Head of Digital and Social Communications at Pfizer to discuss some of the topics that you will see at the Social Shake-Up Conference. The following is a transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!

SMT:   Tell me how a company like Pfizer organizes all the social efforts going on across the organization.

ImageBOB:   The efforts are largely concentrated at the corporate level right now. We are organized operationally by business units that serve their discreet markets and also do some social, and by supporting functions and platform functions.

SMT:   It’s got to be difficult because you’ve got a lot of regulation facing you.  Can you talk a little bit about the difficulties that you have versus say a technology company that doesn’t have these kinds of regulations?

BOB:   Interestingly enough the issue for pharma is largely a lack of regulation or guidance regarding social media, so we as a company have developed our own policies and procedures around our use of social media to ensure we’re compliant, of course, and running our channels according to best practices.

SMT:   Do you find that what you guys are doing with social media is breaking down any barriers within Pfizer? 

BOB:   Yes. The clearest illustration right now is our social networking hub, which we call My World. That’s something we conceived and that was developed in partnership with our Business Technology colleagues and introduced as part of our PfizerWorld intranet platform back in 2010. That first year this internal networking hub drew 41,000 unique users who generated 800,000 page views. The second year it rose to approximately 60,000 users driving 1.6 million page views. 

SMT:   Wow.  That’s like the size of a small search engine.

BOB:   Yeah, it was terrific. People connect with each other and share challenges and solutions and news and updates on things. On any given day there’s a lot of traffic there. 

SMT:   Is this a global initiative, too?

BOB:   It is, but most of the posts you see are in English. I would add that this is not just inside Pfizer but outside of the company too. We’re seeing social tools extend and, in some cases, redefine relationships. Take the Get Old Program, for example. If you haven’t been to the site, it’s It’s an effort by Pfizer to support a candid conversation around aging and living better. What we’re trying to do is challenge people of all ages to rethink what it means to get old and take a more active role in their health. Aging is, of course, a major issue of our time. The population is getting older and chronic conditions are on the rise. To further help support the conversation on these and related issues, we also developed for the site its own Twitter handle and Facebook page.

SMT:   Can you talk about how you leverage user-generated content? Have you gotten a tremendous response? 

BOB:   Yes, we’ve gotten a really good response and we’re very pleased. Because this version of the Get Old site, is so fundamentally different than the previous version, launched in mid-2012, I can’t give you a fair comparison regarding user-generated content volumes. But we’re seeing about three times the traffic generated by the original site. When you go on the new site, you’ll see there are three sections, “Inspire,” “Declare: and “Explore.” Two of these sections present user-generated content in different forms. One is a little longer form than the other. Both sections or pages display the number of pieces of user content posted.

SMT:    It sounds like you had a great response from external users – have you done anything to engage your internal users?

BOB:   Yes, we’ve used several avenues to engage our colleagues, including our PfizerWorld intranet platform. We also had many colleagues participate in our Claim Your Age Day event, which was presented in Times Square on the day of our program and site re-launch – June 5 – and which included participants being photographed or videotaped holding a board displaying their age and talking about how they want to get old. That same day we had Claim Your Age Day activities for our colleagues at our New York Headquarters building and at other sites around the world.

Regarding PfizerWorld, when we started out work on this in my previous role leading Global Colleague Communications, we found that there were some 400 intranet sites across the company. So, while we were going to build a new site, we were also going to build a template that our business units, country organizations and others could use to help stem the proliferation of unrelated/unconnected sites and make it easier for our audience to find the news and information they needed.

In its third year, PfizerWorld generated 5.3 million article views and 61 million page views, up 279 percent and more than 1,000 percent respectively over the predecessor site. And the project yielded $20 million in maintenance, support, and development savings over the four years. Today, PfizerWorld serves as what we like to think of as a digital town square for our colleagues.

SMT:   Superb! Thanks Bob and thanks so much for your time today – it's these kinds of stories we are looking to explore in September at the Social Shake-Up Conference – and I will see you there!


The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.


Paul Dunay

Financial Services Marketing Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Paul Dunay is an award-winning B2B marketing expert with more than 20 years’ success in generating demand and creating buzz for leading technology, consumer products, financial services and professional services organizations.

Paul is the author of five “Dummies” books: Facebook Marketing for Dummies (Wiley 2009), Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies (Wiley Custom Publishing 2010), Facebook Advertising for Dummies (Wiley 2010), Facebook Marketing for Dummies 2nd Edition (Wiley 2011) and Facebook Marketing for Dummies 3rd Edition (Wiley 2012).

His unique approach to marketing has led to recognition of Paul as a BtoB Magazine Top 25 B2B Marketer of the Year for 2010 and 2009 and winner of the DemandGen Award for Utilizing Marketing Automation to Fuel Corporate Growth in 2008. He is also a finalist for the last six years in a row in the Marketing Excellence Awards competition of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), and is a 2010 and 2005 gold award winner in Driving Demand.

Marketing Darwinism, Paul’s blog, has been recognized as a Top 20 Marketing Blog for 2009 and 2008, a Top Blog to Watch for 2009 and 2008, and an Advertising Age Power 150 blog in the “Daily Ranking of Marketing Blogs.” 

Paul has shared his marketing thought leadership as a featured speaker for the American Marketing Association, BtoB Magazine, CMO Club, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), and ITSMA. He has appeared on Fox News, and his articles have been featured in BusinessWeek, The New York Times, BtoB Magazine, MarketingProfs and MarketingSherpa.

Paul holds an Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Computer Science from Ithaca College.

See Full Profile >


Posted on August 16th 2013 at 2:24PM

Interesting interview, I too would have thought that regulation would have prevented pharma from having social media success. 

Regulators have obviously not kept up with current trends, as pharma companies have to jump through hoops to engage via other marketing methods. Self regulation is admirable, but open to abuse. 

Posted on August 19th 2013 at 11:03AM

Self-regulation is definitely a good policy in this wild west era of social for pharmas. I would be interested in knowing what the real value of a company like Pfizer has in social media? The only use I can see for it is customer-service. Other than that, why should Pfizer be in social media?