POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Is It Time To Give Up On Social Media For Rx Info?

doctor's hand in laptop

This post is part of a series of point/counterpoint arguments proposed by different members of the Pixels & Pills staff. Were strong believers that healthy arguments can yield the best solutions, and we hope that you enjoy our series. Feel free to add your own arguments in the comments section below!

by DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)


Some very smart people are saying that its time to give up on ever being able to use social media to communicate information about prescription drugs. After all, the FDA wont be giving guidance on social media anytime soon, if ever, right? How will we ever be able to know what were doing? Lets focus on what we know we can do and stick with that.

Well, Im with those who disagree. I say we can do it, and we can do it the same way weve learned how to do everything else: baby steps and experiments.

Steve Woodruff says that “public, interactive, real-time social media platforms and commercial pharma communications simply dont mesh well. On the surface, that seems to be a truism. But lets think about it.

  1. Do interactive, real-time commercial pharma communications work? Of course they do: thats the definition of a sales rep.
  2. Do public commercial pharma communications work? Of course they do: thats the definition of a DTC ad.

So whats really the problem? Well, the hard part is really something that has nothing to do with the nature of the platform (digital, social media, etc.). Whats difficult is combining “public with “interactive and “real-time – and Steves right, that trifecta is not something that pharma is comfortable with.

The mistake is in making the assumption that all social media communications must be all three. Maybe well get to a place where we can do public interactive real-time communications about our products, but why start with the hardest one? Lets figure them out separately first.

This is easier than ever, as weve seen with Google+, whose main differentiating factor is its ability to neatly and easily group your connections and be fast and choosy about what you share with which groups. Theyre being slow and careful about adding brand profiles, but when they do, think about that customization: the ability to share general information publicly or detailed information to subscribing patients or subscribing healthcare professionals.

Weve come to assume public information is the only option, and I agree that sharing is far more prevalent than any of us ever imagined, but it doesnt have to be the only option anymore. As consumers and professionals become more personally motivated to seek out information, and more savvy about social media with the rest of us, we gain the ability to talk directly to them. Think of it as the direct marketing of the social media world – and as weve pointed out before, direct marketing is a solid foundation on which to start.

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