Boehringer’s ‘Thanks to our 50K facebook likes’ video: a review

I’ve written before about how I enjoy Boehringer’s work on the social web.

In the past, the company has delivered some case study-worthy examples as to how a pharma company may present itself optimally, directly and indirectly, using social platforms.

Boehringer has also created some entertaining promotional shorts in its time – who can forget the great Ray Cokes sparring with a wonderfully irascible parrot, for example – so it was with some interest that I noted that Boehringer recently posted a video entitled ‘Thanks to our 50K facebook likes’.  The video can be viewed within Boehringer’s facebook page, or on Boehringer’s YouTube channel, but I’ll embed it here for your convenience, too:

Having now reviewed the film, I don’t think it reaches the high standards we’ve come to expect from Boehringer.

Here’s why:

Welcome to the Boehringer Ingelheim corporate facebook page (0:01)

Facebook is the least formal of social platforms, so I couldn’t really understand why the video immediately wanted to describe its presence on the platform as ‘corporate’ in this video, particularly when it simply describes itself as ‘the official facebook page of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies on its ‘About‘ page.

Electing to use the word ‘corporate’ right at the beginning of the video resets user expectations unnecessarily, creating a tension which didn’t previously exist between the generally informal nature of facebook posts and Boehringer’s unexpected foregrounding of the fact that its facebook page is a ‘corporate’ one.

I don’t think readers make these kind of distinctions on facebook, and personally I found the description jarring and unsettling.

Feel free to scroll through our innovative content (0:04)

Again, I thought this kind of claim was out of character. What happened to ‘show, don’t tell?’

Whether Boehringer’s content is innovative or not is for its audience to decide, not for the company to announce as fact, I would have thought.

Just a slip, I’m sure, but one I’m hoping Boehringer won’t be in a hurry to repeat.

[Facebook] allows us to talk to you in a two-way conversation, and to get your views, which we always appreciate (0:48)

Whilst a facebook like is a weak, one-way form of connection, a facebook comment is a stronger, dialogue-generative connection. Comments can develop relationships, build trust, and manifest a user’s interest in interacting with the page owner rather than merely clicking on a button.

Comments have more value than likes, and if Boehringer really does prize ‘two-way conversation’ (sic) with its community on facebook, we are inevitably led to reflect on why it isn’t celebrating a milestone number of user comments submitted since the page’s launch, rather than the number of likes it has received.

I’d also have preferred to see this interaction described bidirectionally as ‘talking with’ rather than the unidirectional ‘talking to’.

So to our 50,000 likes on facebook, we say “thank you”, and we look forward to even more conversations with you, and with many others, in the future (1:09)

This sentence doesn’t work on any level.

Firstly, in view of the fact that the film is supposed to be celebrating interaction with other facebook members, calling people ‘likes’ is a perverse and even alienating choice.

Instead, I’d have phrased this ‘So, to the 50,000 people who have liked us on facebook, we say “thank you”‘, or “So, for the 50,000 likes on facebook, we say “thank you”‘.

Secondly, this video presents itself as a celebration in the here-and-now of the the 50,000 people who have liked Boehringer’s facebook page. Slipping in the phrase ‘and with many others’ reads somewhere between a recruitment drive and the company’s drifting off into a pleasant reverie of a time when its page may have accrued 500,000 likes rather than 50,000 (which is, after all, just 0.0004% of facebook’s 1.15 billion users).

I’ve no doubt the presenter Allan Hillgrove is a lovely chap; I’d follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn if I could find him. I’m sure he’s there, and I just haven’t been able to track him down yet.

However, as I watched Allan’s pupils skipping across the prompter he appears to have been reading the script from, I wondered how many candid, spontaneous insights and observations he would have been able to contribute if the camera had simply been allowed to roll, and material collated from the contributions he offered. As it is, the language sounds cold, inauthentic, and quite out of keeping with the message that Boehringer’s facebook page is a ‘very important communication channel between the company and you’.

Finally, in the relaxed setting of one of Boehringer’s cafeterias, having mentioned the good work that the Boehringer corporate social media team do I’d rather expected Allan’s comments to be supported by some interventions from Patricia Alves and Jaclyn Fonteyne who are sitting on either side of him, but are not introduced to the viewer.

I couldn’t fathom why Patricia and Jaclyn were in the film and yet I was not afforded the opportunity to listen to their opinions too. I’d like to have heard what they had to say.

Who knows, I may even have been prompted to like the video on the facebook page as a consequence.

2 thoughts on “Boehringer’s ‘Thanks to our 50K facebook likes’ video: a review

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Having shared the Boehringer video as our video of the week I felt I should add my comments as to why I chose it and was interested reading what you say above. The fact is, I can’t disagree with the points you are making, as the presentation could have been slicker for sure, but it still doesn’t change for me what was an admirable intent – to recognise that social media is not about your messages and internal perspectives, but recognising the value of dialogue with external people. How many pharma companies are still not engaging at all on social media, never mind encouraging people to comment and get involved?

    That is why this video says to me that Boehringer ‘gets it’ when it comes to social media. And if the execution of that intent falls down then perhaps we should put it in the context of #failbetter and the broader relative pharma landscape. Could it be better – yes. Is it better / more human than materials being posted by many other pharma companies – yes, I think so. Have Boehringer learned something by doing it and perhaps stretching beyond their comfort zone – almost certainly.

    I’m all for critiquing and am sure that Boehringer will embrace it, but think those of us outside pharma also have to be wary of wanting our cake and eating it – criticising pharma for not experimenting more with social media and then also criticising them for not getting it right when they do. Do any of us other get it all right all the time. I know I don’t!

    Enough from me….in the spirit of social media interested to hear what others think?

    Disclaimer: Yes, I do know various folks at Boehringer and am working with them, but I try to step back from such discussions when perceiving what is good or bad and it’s certainly not why I chose this video this week.

  2. Thanks, Paul

    You wrote that reply much quicker than I wrote the blog post, but thanks for chivvying me along (on facebook, of course) whilst I was composing it. 😀

    I do have to return to the observation that ‘a “like” isn’t dialogue’; in fact, it isn’t even necessary to like the Boehringer page in order to leave a comment on it.

    I hope we can offer praise where praise is due, and constructive criticism where we discern things that we feel could have been done a little better.

    From another perspective: as we’ve both commented on many occasions, Boehringer is one of the torch-bearers for the broader reforms that social platforms have the potential to generate within the pharma industry. If we hold them to a higher account than many other companies, it’s not only because we have greater expectations of them, it’s also because other companies look to the work they do as a benchmark.

    When content doesn’t meet the standards we set ourselves, sometimes its better to pull the plug than pull the trigger.

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