February 27, 2014
Case Study

Social Media Marketing: How a pharmaceutical company gained 107,000 Facebook likes in one month

SUMMARY: When animal pharmaceutical company Zoetis spun off as a separate company from Pfizer Animal Health, it needed to establish brand equity and recognition, and do so quickly.

Turning to Facebook, Zoetis set up company-wide rules for social media through a customer-focused strategy and was able to cultivate 107,000 Facebook page fans in one month for its EQStable brand.
by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content


As an organization, Zoetis produces pharmaceutical products and services for dogs and cats, but also horses, and other animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens in the food safety arena.

Zoetis used to be a part of the larger group Pfizer Animal Health, and in February of 2013, it IPOed and spun off as a separate company. It became known as solely Zoetis and has 9,000 employees globally with about $4.2 billion in yearly revenue.

The brand transition that occurred spurred the need for name recognition for Zoetis among consumers.

"We'd been the same organization for many, many years. So suddenly this whole new brand came onto the market," said Ed Stening, Senior Manager of Multichannel Marketing, Zoetis.

He added that there was an element among consumers of "who is Zoetis, and what is Zoetis and what did you do with Pfizer Animal Health?"


This campaign began a process of establishing the Zoetis brand within its consumer base by first focusing on EQStable, the equine section.

In the past, veterinarians and trainers had been the targeted customer base with an extensive sales force of a few hundred. But with 1.8 million horse owners in the country, Zoetis didn't have the ability to target those people with its sales force.

They also didn't necessarily have the extensive budget to be able to develop all of those people through more traditional marketing channels.

For Stening and his team, embarking on this campaign was about an opportunity.

"We are a new company. We've never really focused that much on the horse owner in the past, and this will be a great opportunity to start talking to them," he said.

Zoetis tested the social media waters by setting up a Facebook page for equine brand EQStables, and in this campaign developed a social media plan and content strategy that would act as a boilerplate for the rest of the company’s social media.

Step #1. Cultural transformation with workshops

For Zoetis, Stening said the most important step was the cultural transformation. Getting everyone on board internally before continuing onto building a Facebook page was critical before moving forward.

It's easy to build a Facebook page, according to Stening.

He said, "I can make up a Facebook page before the end of this conversation, right? Ultimately for us, it was about changing the internal culture. So how we did that was we ran internal workshops around social media."

Because the company had gone through workshops together, and underwent a cultural transformation with regard to social media, "we had everyone agree … we could really come together as a team," he said.

The social media workshops combined people from:
  • Regulatory

  • Legal

  • Veterinary operations

  • Marketing

  • Marketing operations

  • Digital strategy

Because of the workshops, people from these different areas of the company were able to have the same objective and thought process for launching these projects.

This proactive approach was able to solve a common problem, according to Stening.

"I can sit there and work with the marketers, and we can do some really, really awesome stuff. And then just before we launch, or just after we launch, the project gets killed or cancelled because Regulatory wasn't brought in, [or] Legal wasn't brought in," he said.

This way, he said, everyone is on the same page from the beginning and provides input throughout the process. Also, it ensures that people fully understand the technology and how it will be used, as well as the benefits.

There were people attending the workshop who had never actually been on Facebook, according to Stening. That became a main challenge that was solved through the discussion and forum of the workshops.

"How can I really, simply try and convince somebody who's never been on Facebook in their life … how can I convince this person to get in the mindset of using social media to drive his business?" Stening asked.

The cultural transformation has been one of the greatest successes of this effort, he added, because "getting that larger group fall in the line has probably been one of, definitely, the larger achievements of this project," he said.

Step #2. Plan out social media content

After conducting the social media workshops, Stening and his team moved on to the content planning stage.

The pharmaceutical industry has "quite a heavy regulatory process," according to Stening, adding that everything has to be reviewed extensively before it goes out to ensure compliance and professionalism.

A main goal in planning was to be able to respond quickly to customers engaging with the Facebook page.

"We wanted to be able to be seen as incredibly dynamic, and be able to communicate as quickly as we could," he said.

Through discussion, Stening and his team were able to anticipate some questions that would be asked, and submit a lot of content for pre-approval. That action taken ahead of time allowed Zoetis moderators to reference these approved answers, respond as quickly as possible to anticipated customer questions.

Facebook page launch

At that point, Stening and his team went through with launching the Facebook page, followed by other social media accounts at a later date.

"We launched first in Facebook, and got some great traction straight away," he said.

Zoetis also connected the launch to a media buy in Facebook Ads, and although Stening said not a lot of money was spent, "we spent enough money to sort of get the party started. We really targeted those horse owners that we knew would be interested in this kind of thing.”

Through Facebook targeting, the team was able to identify people who were interested in topics such as the American Quarter Horse, or horse publications like Horse.com, and invite them to like Zoetis' EQStable page. Current customers were reached out to through email to be notified of the launch.

Talk to your customers, don’t market to them

The first thing Stening said he was very concerned about, and "most people in my position are very concerned with this as well — is that if we start talking to them like a billboard or a TV ad, we'll lose them."

Many marketers have an issue separating company-speak and loyalty to the product with how consumers will want to interact with your product.

"Because marketers have a habit of — and as a marketer myself I can say this — we have a habit of loving to talk about ourselves and our brands, and we think our brands are amazing," Stening said.

Ultimately, he added, "A person doesn't actually care a lot of the time. The brand needs to be relevant to them at the right time. So we really needed to shift that mindset away from being very brand-focused into very customer-focused."

What has been implemented to fight that tendency is a "very strict content process," he said.

The process consists of:

"This would be just funny stuff. Like it might be a meme on 'Thank God it's Friday' and it's got a picture of a horse bolting through a gate," Stening explained.

This information is related to asking questions, or stirring conversation on the group. That might be "[asking] who is taking horses out for this weekend for particular events, make sure you do 'XYZ' when tying up the truck, or it could be related to health," he said.

  • 20% brand-based content

At the beginning, the brand content was limited to almost zero, and has been built up to no more than 20% over time.

"It was about people coming to the community, getting engaged so that ultimately, they could see the value of it, and then we could slowly insert brand but appropriately," Stening said.

It was important that the Facebook page was engaging, and not distracting or annoying, especially at the beginning.

"It wasn't a big shout saying, 'Buy Quest Plus!' It was, 'OK, now we're getting up to a difficult parasite season, please make sure that you have the right D1, and it's on board — like Quest Plus.' We were very, very strategic in how we created that content. It was very customer-focused," he said.

Step #3. Focus on user-generated content

"When we first started with this, we ran around trying to get pictures we had to have on Facebook. And truly, I think we've only ever used three or four of them," Stening said.

EQStable has had more than 750 images uploaded from fans onto the page, so instead of stock or brand photos, they only use pictures that originate from Facebook fans.

“We don't use any of our own pictures anymore. We only use user-generated content,” he said, adding that this approach gives EQStable a lot more traction on the page.

"As corporations, we like that polished look, we like that beautiful clean image which has been retouched to hell. But for what works in Facebook, even if it's the one taken on the iPhone, those are the images that really work," he explained.

Not only do user-generated pictures encourage interaction between the brand and Facebook fans, but it fosters discussion and interaction between fans and customers.

"It's not just pictures, there's also [written] content. During the Colorado bush fires, we had some really shocking stories coming up. Some beautiful stories of people trying to save horses. We were trying to run a lot of these stories. So our fans actually became our reporters on the ground," he said.

Step #4. Constantly moderate customer comments

Zoetis has moderators constantly monitoring the page so that the EQStables page can quickly post replies, either to issues, or simply to better facilitate conversation.

"I think that's probably the key differentiator between us and many other pages at our brand level, based on what our company is doing, what our competitors are doing, and also what the industry is doing," he said, adding that they try to respond to at least one in five comments.

"I think that's actually the important part, because we need to move away from having a broadcast channel, and actually create a community," he said. "If you use a broadcast channel, we may as well just be advertising on radio."

To cultivate that community, and ensure that conversation is genuine and timely, Stening said all of the moderators for the EQStables page are horse lovers who understand the market.

Step #5. Have a crisis plan in place

When it comes to developing the Facebook and social media strategy, Stening is clear that everything hasn't been done perfectly, and he and his team have tried out ideas or pieces of content that simply don't have the desired effect.

"We probably have these regularly. I think that that's the whole great thing about social is that we can fail pretty quickly, and we can learn from it pretty quickly as well," he said.

An example, he said, was when a group of people on the page began voicing their unhappiness with an element of one of the products.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't respond as quickly as we'd normally like," he said.

Much like their regular content plan, the team has a very strict crisis plan in place. That way if an issue arises, they can react effectively, according to Stening.

"We spend a lot of time trying to workshop all the things that could go wrong. And, unfortunately, this was the first week we launched the page, something appeared in the crisis area that we weren't actually prepared for, which is sometimes a good thing," he said.

That event tested how good their plan really was, and because it exposed a flaw in the process, the team was able to make the crisis plan stronger for the future.

"Because we couldn't respond to the elements, it actually caught on like a little bit of wildfire," Stening said, adding that the team worked together with a vendor to create a response that bought them time to effectively deal with the issue.

"This kind of thing, we're human beings at the end of the day, we're not going to do everything perfectly out of the gate. So this was a good test for us. We didn't get the 'A' grade that we wanted. But at least we were much more prepared in the future," he said.


"We are really using EQStables as our blueprint for success. I think that the big picture of this is, we have people who are incredibly connected to the customers in our organization," Stening said.

He added that the biggest takeaway from this process has been that it is a constant learning process, and will continue to be, because "no matter how much we think we know the customer, we really don't."

Social media has been "incredibly eye-opening for many parts of our organization because we can really start to see more about our customer. We basically get a three dimensional view of who our customers are, what they do, and how they act," he said.

Even if topics seem unrelated to your products, Stening said it is important to have a full view of your customer.

"When do they get excited? When do they get upset? When do they like things? When don't they like things?" he asked. "It's really the best market research in the world you can possibly get."

The EQStable Facebook page was launched on March 7, 2013. After one month, the Facebook page had 107,000 likes and a 29% engagement rate — more than triple the average ratio for communities of this size among the top 1,000 brands on Facebook.

Other key metrics include:
  • The EQStable fans posted 35,173 comments to EQStable

  • Member posts are 97% positive

  • Less than 1% of posts are reportable

  • The page drove more than 200 downloads of the EQStable mobile app

  • Acquisition costs are under 50 cents, compared to a dollar or more for other methods

  • With an original target of 10,000 fans by the end of 2013, Zoetis reached 107,000 after a month

  • A PTAT (People Talking About This) usually between 20% to 30%

"We've gone up to the dizzy heights of 60%, 70% of people talking about us. So our engagement's through the roof. In fact, we've never actually [went below] 8%," he said, referencing the industry average. "I think we're pretty happy with how things are going."

Creative Samples

  1. Social-based content

  2. Category-based content



LiveWorld — Zoetis' social media vendor

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