Beginning Aug. 15, Facebook will no longer allow pharmaceutical companies to block user comments on disease education and awareness campaigns. Pages that are clearly branded for a single drug are exempt. For companies that want to moderate comments before they post to a Facebook page, agencies like Intouch Solutions, LiveWorld, and Buddy Media offer software that integrates with Facebook to do just that. Here are a few 'Like' and 'Dislike' practices—thanks to Jim Dayton, senior director, emerging media, at Intouch Solutions—that companies should consider, prior to Facebook's great enabling.
A timely response. Questions about health are typically urgent; pharmaceutical companies should try to respond within 48 hours to any inquiry posted on a disease or education site.Plain, non-corporate language. That doesn't mean speaking to commentators as if they're children (unless they are children), but it does mean cutting out the corporate boilerplate. No two responses should be identically worded.
Allow negative comments. Unless a comment runs afoul of regulatory practices, let it post—even if it's inflammatory. Responding to criticism is a graceful act; look at criticism as an opportunity to provide a human face for the company.
Dedicated resources. Asking someone to stick his or her neck out by responding to comments on Facebook is asking a lot. Make sure a review process has been established for comments. Align that process with your pharmacovigilance process.
Comment editing. It's almost always a bad idea to edit someone's comment. If a comment poses a question that can't be answered due to regulatory issues, e-mail an explanation to the commentator. Don't post an attenuated user comment.
Review every comment. Deleting an inappropriate comment after the fact doesn't sit well with Facebook users. Additionally, allowing a comment about off-label usage, for example, to sit on a pharma-sponsored Facebook page is not a good idea.
Abandoned campaign pages. If it's not being updated, take it down. There's no reason to collect negative and potentially damaging comments on a page featuring a contest that was over in 2009.
Blaming FDA guidelines. Don't blame FDA's failure (at press time) to issue social media guidelines for not participating in social media. Get in there and talk to your patients.