New Social Media Guide for Pharma Should Make You Feel Better

social media marketing regulations“One of the most frustrating things about this industry is how we use regulations as an excuse to not participate in social media.” 

- Trish Nettleship, Global Director Social Media & Influence at UCB Pharma


“The excuse for ignoring patients on social channels just went ‘poof’.”

- Leerom Segal, CEO of Klick Health.


That “poof” sound you heard was the release of new FDA guidelines January 13 on the use of social in medical product or pharmaceutical promotion. And it was something social marketers had been waiting on for over 4 years. This was just a draft. A full report is expected this summer.


Here’s what they put out there…for now:

  • Companies can post promo messages on social without first submitting them for FDA approval. But they do have to submit all that promo content after the fact.
  • Firms are responsible for product promo communications on sites that are owned, controlled, created, influenced, or operated by, or on behalf of, the firm.
  • Under some circumstances, firms are responsible for promo on 3rd-party sites, such as if they have control or influence in the process via collaboration, editorial, preview, or review. If they’re just paying to post marketing with no say over other content, no problem.
  • A firm is responsible for the content generated by employees or agents acting on the firm’s behalf to promote the firm's product.


The guidelines have a lot to do with the realities of the social revolution and seek a workable solution for meeting regulatory requirements also being able to participate on social. What’s not workable is submitting every user comment for government approval before it can be published, stripping away the real-time nature of social.


Which is what today’s patient wants.


  • 59% of US adults have looked online for health info in past 12 months.
  • 18% have gone online to find others who share the same health concerns.
  • The average US consumer spends about 52 hours looking for health info online annually.
  • 54% of online health searches were on behalf of someone else.


People are actively engaged in their healthcare and go straight to the web and social with their questions. It falls on pharmaceutical companies and health providers in general to be present on social, empowering, educating, and building trusted relationships. These latest guidelines give firms more of a green light to do just that.


Oracle Social Cloud Director of Outbound Product Management Angela Wells suggests steps pharma companies can start taking in response:

  • Set a social policy: how can you leverage social with each stakeholder group?
  • Solidify workflow, approvals, and permissions.
  • Identify how you’ll archive info for the monthly FDA reporting (some social management platforms automate such archiving and exporting more efficiently than others).
  • Listen to your audience & create targeted content themes.
  • Tap into relevant hashtags, communities and conversations, like #hcsm, #carechat, #HITsm, #MedEd, #bigCchat, #RMchat, #DigitalPharmacist, #DrugSafety, #QualityChat


@mikestiles
Photo: Christy Thompson, stock.xchng

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