The social media impact of top-10 pharma’s CEOs

19.09.2023 | News

The social media impact of top-10 pharma’s CEOs

At a time when pharma companies are innovating to bring all the different active customer channels together to create a seamless ‘omnichannel’ customer journey, we can also see that CEOs of pharma companies are embracing more and more the social media space. 

HCPs post billions of conversations on public social media, according to research by, which naturally makes this channel attractive to the industry. Research shows that X (Twitter) is the preferred public platform where HCPs often discuss and share trial data instantly, share complex patient needs with peers and advocate for new practices.

Looking at the social media use of CEOs at the top 10 pharma companies, illustrated in  the table below,  90% of the CEOs have their greatest social media following on LinkedIn. Vasant Narasimhan (Novartis) and Albert Bourla (Pfizer) are the only ones who are active on X (Twitter) in a professional capacity, and Vasant Narasimhan also uses a public Instagram account (where he has not posted since July 2022).

Looking at their social media activity between June and August 2023, LinkedIn was also the channel where CEOs posted the most frequently. As can be seen below, most CEOs posted more in one half of the study than the other.

Among this group on LinkedIn, five out of eight CEOs posted at least once about the LGBTQ community during Pride month 2023. Similarly, over half of these CEOs posted on International Women’s Day about females in medicine and life science. Posts about social advocacy were very common across the board. Joaquin Duato tends to post about health equity and racial barriers in medicine, while Emma Walmsley often posts about gender inequality. For Albert Bourla and Vasant Narasimhan, their X (Twitter) activity reflects similar messages on LinkedIn.

Social media impact score

Despite there being some degree of similarity in their online behaviour, the impact and engagement that pharma CEOs receive from their online community differs. has created a bespoke scoring tool for ranking the social media impact of each of the top 10 pharma CEOs. The score for each CEO, given out of 10, takes into account the following metrics:

  • Followers across platforms
  • Frequency of posts
  • Number of comments the CEO made
  • Number of comments the CEO received
  • Likes received on posts across platforms

As can be seen above, Vasant Narasimhan, Albert Bourla and Joaquin Duato have the highest score of the top 10 CEOs, with Bourla being given a perfect score. The Pfizer CEO’s large online following, use of different social media and posting frequently meant has identified him as having the greatest social media impact of all of the CEOs analysed.

Similarly, the use of multiple social media channels, in Narasimhan’s case both Twitter and LinkedIn as well as Instagram, means the Novartis CEO in particular has the potential to wield a greater online influence than those of other companies. The use of multiple social media channels and the frequency with which he posted, more than all but Albert Bourla, also greatly increases the potential he has to meaningfully impact online conversations in the pharmaceutical space.

In third place, despite having around a third of the amount of followers as Paul Hudson, Joaquin Duato has a slightly higher impact score at 6.1. What accounts for this?     

Largely, it is Joaquin Duato’s commenting behaviour. Over the study period, Duato made a total of 19 comments, in response to J&J employees on LinkedIn. This kind of behaviour has real potential to impact and influence eHCPs and other stakeholders, and is a good indicator of someone approaching social media in an engaging and personal way..

Consistency is another online behaviour which can have a big effect on how impactful someone’s social media usage can be. In the period 7 June – 7 July Emma Walmsley had an impact score of 5, however this dropped to 2.6 in the following month, giving her an average of 3.8. Clearly then, posting frequently and consistently can go a long way in creating an impactful social media presence.           


To conclude, this analysis has shown that there is a real willingness amongst pharma CEOs to engage authentically with their audience. While having a large follower count can go some way to predict how impactful a CEOs social media usage can be, other behaviours like posting frequently, about topics which resonate with HCPs, and commenting on posts to generate discussion have been shown to have a real effect on impact. tracks over a billion unprompted HCP conversations online; with such a wealth of HCP conversation, the trend amongst pharma CEOs to engage with social media offers untold opportunities for innovation and understanding between CEO and HCP. As Albert Bourla and Vasant Narasimhan have shown, including a personal touch on social media is rewarded with high levels of engagement from HCPs and other stakeholders, which can result in higher levels of trust from HCPs. The knock on effects this can have for our industry, stakeholders and ultimately patients is endlessly exciting. 

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Meet the Author

Cameron Bassindale

Cameron’s academic background in Social Sciences is helping to inform his development of world-class insights, led by weaving stories to help shape and inform actions taken by key stakeholders in the Pharmaceutical industry.

When he’s not watching his beloved Arsenal FC, Cameron can usually be found with his nose in a book or out for dinner with friends.