Running Scared: Pharma and the Facebook Wall

head in the sand

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

The talk, for a long while now, has been about Facebooks change of guidelines, no longer allowing pharmaceutical companies to turn off comments on their Facebook walls. Yesterday, D-Day arrived.

Over on Dose of Digital, Jonathan Richman, was keeping a “deathwatch vigil over pages that were apt to be removed. On Friday, the Washington Post did a nice piece of reporting, covering the reasons for and against (the comments, though perhaps not informative, are certainly entertaining), and Facebooks reasoning behind the changes. As quoted: Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications for Facebook, said in an e-mail, “We think these changes will help encourage an authentic dialogue on pages.

Over on Impactiviti Blog, Steve Woodruff posed this question: Does Pharma (a company and/or brand) really have anything uniquely valuable to offer on social media platforms? And he asks for us to leave our comments at the bottom of this post (where there is a pretty robust and very interesting discussion happening).

Its a question weve been debating for a long time now, on Pixels and Pills, even last week posting a Point/Counterpoint, where two of our own took to two sides of the issue of whether is was time to give up on social media for Rx information or whether pharma companies and docs should stick it out and ride the wave.

Regulations are tight in pharma and healthcare. This is something that we are well aware of. But does this mean that pharma needs to keep its head in the sand, constantly going with the status quo? Never pushing forward?

In my opinion, no. Facebook, Twitter, Quora and blogs on a companys own site, these are all great tools for providing information and engaging with interested people. Will there be some jerks out there, leaving comments you dont agree with, or mentioning off-labels uses? Sure. Its likely. But these comments can be moderated. They can be deleted. Facebook has native tools in place to filter certain words and phrases, which can be very helpful in moderation and in managing the community. A great community manager can soothe an upset commenter, engage the happy ones and provide information, content and resources to keep everyone talking. Pharma companies/brands on Facebook have long had the luxury of simply turning off the comments on their walls, as opposed to dealing with what might happen if they were to leave them on.

Lets face it, people turn to social media platforms like Facebook to engage, to share with brands, with people of the same interests, with people with the same problems. They look to social media platforms for community. By not allowing comments for so long, pharma companies have been able to navigate the waters of social media, while avoiding the “troubles that may arise given true dialogue.

Facebook is a place for engagement. As a social media professional, I dont understand, personally, why anyone brand, company, person would approach a social media platform (of any kind) if not to engage with their users, their friends and, heck, even their enemies. Lack of direction from the FDA has a lot of companies running scared, but does that mean that they truly need to cut and run?

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3 Responses to Running Scared: Pharma and the Facebook Wall

  1. Jason Boies says:

    Hi Briana,

    Pfizer now has a “Not seeing your comment?” page on their FB page and it’s step in the right direction. Being honest about the fact that some comments can and will be deleted is fine so long as your audience is aware of the “Why” involved.

    Many people aren’t aware of the nuances involved in such decisions such as the need to guard against medical advice being given by non-professionals and discussions involving off-label usage. Plenty of people think deletion of comments is strictly for guarding against complaints or adverse event reports but that’s just a small part of it.

    I’m confident many if not Pharma companies will keep a Facebook presence, even if some need to step back this week and retool a bit.

    Nice post!

    Jason Boies
    Community Engagement, Radian6
    @Radian6

  2. Jason Boies says:

    *many if not most Pharma companies…*

    Ugh

    😉

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful comment (and compliment), Jason!

    It will be really interesting to see what plays out, over the next few days and weeks, with pharma on Facebook. It’s such an important tool in the patient conversation, so hopefully many will ride out the storm.