Amongst the most lucrative industries that have been slow to adopt social media marketing practices is the pharmaceutical industry. There are various reasons that are hindering companies to take advantage of the social web marketing platforms. In the article, Social Media and Post-Marketing Drug Safety, author Elizabeth E. Garrard, PharmD, RPh, lists various reasons why some pharmaceutical firms shy away from social media. From a target audience engagement perspective, firms may feel hesitant to start a discussion fearful of two-way conversation with the general public is risky and fraught with liability implications.
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These two manufacturers have selected to have a platform to engage with users of the products with their own rules of engagement to avoid potential messy problems that other companies are fearing.
Figure 1 is the landing page of the Pfizer Facebook Page. The firm utilizes this page to be transparent in terms of pulling content off the wall.
The page lists the following items which could be reasons for pulling user generated content:
- References to a product
- References to a side effect
- Comments containing vulgarity
- Comments containing medical advice
- Off topic comments
Ironically, we found the discussion thread presented in Figure 2 on November 22nd, 2011 regarding Pfizer’s support of an online Alzheimer’s disease health center. Unfortunately, the subject of the discussion was switched o Pfizer’s policy regarding wall postings.
Merck’s commenting guidelines are available via a tab located on the left hand side of its Facebook Page. The guidelines are composed of two key elements as illustrated in Figure 3.
- Refraining from mentioning Merck products or products from other companies.
- Commenting or posting content that is factually inaccurate or misleading, spam, inappropriate, violate another’s copyright or intellectual property or profanity
It is interesting to note that Merck is quite open to having a two-way discussion with individuals on Facebook. Figure 4 illustrates an example of Merck’s efforts to engage and talk to its audience.
Although social media has opened up avenues for companies to market products and services electronically, some companies remain hesitant in adopting the new media. The array of concerns that pharmaceutical firms may have in terms of using social media are very validate; however, firms must remain open to using the platforms to engage consumers to gain a competitive edge.
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Intelegia is a boutique consulting firm in Montreal, Canada that understands the need to be innovative and strategic in a business landscape that’s evolving at an incredible pace. The firm delivers social media strategies to efficiently engage with stakeholders in economic development, business to business and business to consumer segments. It assists clients by defining and executing sustainable social web strategies that will allow their brand message to stand out in a competitive environment where target audience engagement is a must.
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