Digital Insights: Pharma Tears Down Facebook Wall

Facebook is going back on its pledge for full transparency and giving pharma companies the option to turn off their wall feature if pages meet specific criteria, thus hindering users from commenting publicly.

By Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

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It was just this May that Facebook decided to create a more public forum for Big Pharma’s drug and brand pages and an uproar was heard ‘round the industry. However, it now appears Facebook is going back on its pledge for full transparency and giving pharma companies the option to turn off their wall feature if pages meet specific criteria, thus hindering users from commenting publicly.

As confirmed by Facebook, branded pages dedicated solely to a prescription drug could still disable comments after the mid-August changeover, pending Facebook’s approval.

"Our understanding is that if you have a page that has the product name and the generic name in the title and the page [content] is strictly about that product, you can submit to Facebook and they'll make the decision and might disable comments," said Jim Dayton, senior director of emerging media at Intouch Solutions, a pharma marketing agency, as reported by ClickZ.com.

Intouch Solutions recently started marketing a product called PharmaWall  in mid-June after the original Facebook announcement. PharmaWall would serve as a plugin, allowing pharma companies to monitor and moderate the comments on their Facebook walls with the intent to minimize legal risk.

According to the company, PharmaWall will work like this:

  • Facebook members can still create new posts and comment on posts, but they are alerted that their post/comment will be reviewed prior to publishing on the page.
  • PharmaWall stores new posts/comments in a queue for behind-the-scenes review by the page administrator who decides whether it will be approved, revised or declined.
  • If the content is approved, it publishes to the Facebook page and copies of all content—as well as decisions to approve, revise or decline—are documented for later review.

But the question remains, just how many pharma companies will Facebook allow to disable their wall features? Will companies even bother to maintain their Facebook pages at this point? (After all, Pfizer’s page was embarrassingly hacked this summer. The next day, the company left this message: “As you might have noticed, our Page was compromised last night. We have been working with Facebook to understand what happened so we can guard against it in the future.”)

Is it worth the investment in PharmaWall to err on the side of caution? Will other products emerge with the intent of minimizing corporate legal risks on Facebook?

And please someone tell me what happened to that social media guidance from FDA? Let me know: mvaccarello@putman.net

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