Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is the pharma executive with the biggest impact on social media, according to a new study. While busy industry leaders may not currently place social media engagement at the top of their priority lists, the study – published by specialist digital insights consultancy, Creation Healthcare – suggests that sharing their thoughts on platforms like LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) can drive stronger connections with healthcare professionals and ultimately engender more trust in their organisations.


Creation’s ranking considers the social media influence of CEOs from the top 10 pharma companies by prescription drug sales (see chart below). Beyond follower count alone, it also takes into account frequency of posts; number of comments made; number of comments received; and number of likes received.


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Bourla, recently appointed president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), scores a perfect ten, in part thanks to the extremely high frequency of his posts (see below) followed by Vas Narasimhan of Novartis. The study notes that while most of the CEOs chose to engage predominantly on LinkedIn, where 90 percent of their collective social media following sits, Narasimhan is utilising a wider range of platforms. These include Instagram and especially X, where healthcare professionals (HCPs) tend to engage more than on LinkedIn. Only Bourla and Narasimhan have active professional accounts on X. The top five is rounded out by Joaquin Duato of J&J, Sanofi’s Paul Hudson, and Richard Gonzalez from AbbVie.


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The study cites “authentic engagement” as crucial in enhancing executives’ social media impact, showcasing the issues they care about. This covers everything from posting about the LGBTQ+ during Pride month, to women in medicine around International Women’s Day, as well as health equity and racial barriers in medicine (Duato) and gender inequality (GSK’s Emma Walmsley).


While a large follower count is important (see below for ranking by follower count), it is therefore only one piece of the puzzle in terms of impactful social media engagement. Posting frequently about topics that resonate with HCPs and commenting on posts to generate discussion, are just as crucial.


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Creation’s Director of Strategic Solutions Anni Neumann, commenting on the analysis, noted that “there are a host of important variables that determine influence ranging from post frequency, activity across platforms, and two-way engagement. Consistency of engagement is also important.”


“But, and as Albert Bourla and Vasant Narasimhan have shown, including a personal touch on social media is often rewarded with high levels of engagement from HCPs and other stakeholders, which can result in higher levels of trust from HCPs.


“In ensuring the effectiveness of their social media strategy pharma industry leaders need to think clearly about the objectives and goals that they’re trying to achieve and the audiences they will need to engage with to achieve them. They then need to determine which platforms are the most effective ones to reach those audiences.


“Social media offers a free and valuable platform for the sector. It should be embraced.”