Monday, August 22, 2011

Facebook Fan Page Changes May Be Just What The Doctor Ordered

If you work in pharmaceutical marketing then you're well aware of the recent Facebook Fan Page changes and how some pharmaceutical companies have responded by disabling their Facebook Fan Pages. In fact, according to Jonathan Richman, a total of 13 Pages have been removed since the official May 17th email announcement.

Personally speaking, I believe Facebook's decision to "no longer allow admins of new pharma Pages to disable commenting on the content their Page shares with people on Facebook" and that "pages that currently have commenting disabled will no longer have this entitlement after August 15th" will actually be a good thing for the pharmaceutical marketing industry.

Prior to this change, because Facebook allowed pharma clients to disable functionality on Pages (specifically the ability for page users to comment on Wall posts, photos and videos) AND because some pharma companies had already started dipping their toes into Facebook waters, the immediate reaction from brand managers was "I need to be on Facebook!"

From a digital strategy perspective, this request often seemed like putting the cart before the horse, or in advertising speak "putting the tactic before the planning." On this issue, there have been countless articles and blog postings on the importance of thinking through social media engagements (e.g defining target audience(s), strategy, success metrics, governance, risks, benefits, staffing needs, etc.) and then determining which social media platform would best accomplish these goals and objectives. One article that I particularly like on this subject is Emily Peterson's "B2B Companies: Launching a Facebook Fan Page? Ask Yourself These Four Questions Prior to Launch," which although written for B2B companies, really applies to any industry.

Now that Facebook's policy has changed, the platform no longer is the immediate pharma go-to. Whereas before pharma marketers could create a "restricted" Facebook Page (branded or unbranded), post content and/or set the Page up to pull in content from a corresponding website and then take a hands-off approach to monitoring/managing the Page, now they must actively monitor Pages, and develop and implement Facebook governance policies in case off-label comments or adverse event reports appear on the Page.

So why is this good for Pharmaceutical Marketing?

1) It Will Weed Out The Posers: Those pharma companies, who have be using Facebook for purely advertising purposes and not to have as a platform for authentic dialogues between people and their companies/brands will either shut down their pages or have to start engaging in meaningful and authentic conversations with consumers. Only those brands sincere about contributing to Facebook's mission statement to "share and make the world more open and connected" will remain.

2) It Will Require Pharma Companies To Develop Clear Cut Social Governance Policies: The era of the "set it and forget it" pharma Facebook page is over. If pharma companies really want to be on Facebook, they will have to devote the time and resources to developing a thorough, legal/regulatory approved, overarching social media policy and user guide for specific platforms, like a Facebook; they'll also have to plan for the staffing and budget to implement and monitor their Facebook page.

All in all, Facebook's changes will be a win-win for the consumer, the pharma company and the marketing agency. Consumers will get meaningful conversations and responses, pharma companies will establish weighty and genuine relationships with their consumers and will have documented processes for handling adverse events and off-labels comments, and marketers will get to develop and implement social governance policies that connect clients to target audiences through impactful, thoughtful dialogues.

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