Is guidance stifling social media?

Jay Goldman
Managing director, Klick Health

The FDA continues to solidify its perspective on social media with these draft guidances, but  there are issues that unduly restrict what industry should be able to do on the “short form” social channels.

We find Twitter essentially unusable for branded communications. We also see an apparent misinterpretation of Google AdWords Enhanced Sitelinks with the example ads where an agency encourages marketers to rely on parts of the ad that Google will not promise to display. This can put the marketers at risk for not including fair balance.

The most welcome statements were in the “correcting misinformation” draft guidance, through which firms were told that they could correct or request corrections to information without being held responsible for that information in the future.

Philip Storer
VP, digital strategy, The Navicor Group

While the FDA's guidance for presenting risk within Twitter's space limitations provides instructions on how to proceed responsibly, it leaves challenges for communicating effectively. The following is an example of a tweet considered acceptable by the FDA, but it limits the marketer to fewer than 60 characters for promotion: 

“NoFocus (rememberine HCl) for mild to moderate memory loss—May cause seizures in patients with a seizure disorder”

URL shorteners like can be used, but they do not address the FDA's guidance that the URL itself should indicate that the link will take  users to risk information. We created Http://, a shortener to both compliantly conserve character counts and denote risk, allowing space for creative, effective messages.

Zoe Dunn
Principal, Hale Advisors

Branded social media continues to have too many obstacles to make it worthwhile for the pharmaceutical industry. For consumers, social networks are places to make connections, not buy products. Stepping into a consumer's social media space is like an invite to join their family: there are high expectations and no filter for criticism. Scary! With corporations, consumers often use social media as a customer service vehicle: when they want something to change or when they are seeking help or information to make a timely or urgent decision. When consumers don't get a response from their traditional communications channels (email, call center), they know the quickest response will come from a simple tweet (public shaming is powerful). Can pharma even afford to open that door?

Matthew Howes
SVP, head of strategic services, Palio+Ignite

The real hurdles to effective use of social media come from within: a lack of credibility and a culture of avoidance. Pharma companies spend millions in attempts to drive patient and physician engagement, but don't engage themselves. KOLs are under-engaged in social dialog. Sales reps should build a following to share news and points of view. Corporate communicators should connect audiences in the social sphere to appropriate content and people. When negative commentary is made about them, their company or their products, they won't be able to curb the wave of criticism or misinformation if they haven't established a right to respond.

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