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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 www.getold.com. 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!

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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.