A post by Josh Stylman on the ad-age blog (“Facebook Serves as Own Example of How Web Bites Back: What Happens When You Post Something Without Thinking It Through”) takes an interesting look at content published online its ownership and its lifecycle. (I strongly recommend reading it).
In a nutshell Josh makes the point that it’ much easier to put content online than it is (if it ever is) to remove it. He judiciously points out that once online, content might actually be there forever and brings up the concept of companies and individuals’ digital footprint.
This “digital footprint” is most likely a major concern for any pharma company considering Social Media, and could prevent any meaningful engagement in this space. While a lot of debating is around Adverse Effect (AE) reporting, I strongly believe that AE can be overcome with education and putting some guidelines around it. I can even envision these guidelines being established industry wide under the umbrella of an organization such as PhRMA.
The digital footprint of marketing content however, and most specifically the online marketing claims footprint of a pharmaceutical company (or anyone acting on behalf of) are a more pervasive problem and one that implicates a company’s aptitude to deal with the risk of spontaneity impulsiveness and to a certain degree authenticity in social media. As Steve Woodruff wisely pointed out at e-pharma and in this post "social media salsa meets pharma waltz", success in social media relies on authenticity, exchange (2 way communication), transparency and finally immediacy. Combine this immediacy (interact now with spontaneity) with responsibility (i.e. who is liable for the content regardless of where it resides) and content ownership/perpetuity (can I take it down at the FDA’s request?) and you’ll understand why pharma is proceeding with caution. Indeed, in a world where content has been reviewed, and approved only after many iterations and hours of discussion, it is hard to envision the empowerment & delegation needed to implement meaningful and rapid dialogue on a large enough scale to have an impact.
Marketers in pharma are facing the challenge to balance the output of well thought, proofed (and I mean legal) and relevant content in a timely manner. Finding that balance will be critical but no easy task.