Pharma and Social Media: Ready to Make Nice? - Pharmaceutical Executive


Pharma and Social Media: Ready to Make Nice?
As companies prepare to reformulate their Facebook strategies in light of the recent changes regarding the disabling of comments on pharma pages, the time is right for industry to overcome its social media phobia once and for all

Pharmaceutical Executive

Finding the Right Balance

What’s Your Digital IQ?
Guidelines are great, control is sometimes necessary, but stifling dialogue not only defeats the purpose of the social media exercise, it bolsters the perception that pharma is, at best, not listening and, at worst, manipulative. The secret is striking a balance, and there are real communities out there that pull it off.

Johnson & Johnson's Children With Diabetes is a strong example of a pharma-owned online community where patients more or less can freely discuss products with each other and with J&J company officials. This might be because Children With Diabetes was founded and created by parents of diabetic children, and then acquired by J&J, so the company approaches it with an extremely light touch. is a social community for phenylketonuria (PKU) patients built by Biomarin Pharmaceuticals and is clearly associated with the company, linking to, the site for the Kuvan PKU drug sold by Biomarin. Still, the site hosts lively discussions among its members. This is on a relatively small scale—Kuvan is an orphan drug—but it's a good example of a community built by pharma from the ground up that is actually working.

PharmaWall: Allowing Pharma to Face Up to Facebook?
But therapeutic or disease communities are relatively sedate affairs. What about the real-time rough and tumble of Twitter and Facebook?

AstraZeneca recently ventured into Twitter discussions in February, hosting a one-hour chat on the #RXsave hashtag to raise awareness about its prescription savings programs. Response to the chat session was generally positive, and in a recent tweet AZ announced that enrollment in its prescription savings programs was up 10 percent.

Pharma's relationship with Facebook is difficult right now, but Boehringer Ingelheim's corporate Facebook page, with wall comments fully enabled, is widely considered to be an example of pharma getting Facebook right.

Across Health’s 2011 digital landscape survey of life sciences leaders in Europe found limited investment in digital marketing; barriers to implementation, from regulatory issues to lack of strategy; and a heavy reliance on older website marketing techniques, combining to leave industry execs very dissatisfied with digital activities.
How can other pharma companies get it right? Follow the advice Thomas L. Harrison gave pharma ahead of Facebook's Aug. 15 rule change: put the staff in place and build an infrastructure to monitor Facebook and other social networking sites; get the data collection systems in place to capture relevant information; and put protocols and legal oversight in place to review that information and report it to the appropriate regulatory bodies.

Benefit from industry updates and case studies related to this article

3rd Annual Life Sciences Forum on Social Media Regulations and Compliance

Leverage Digital Networks while Ensuring Promotional Compliance

June 19-20, 2012
Alexandria, Virginia


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