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Home » CEB Marketing Blog, Marketing & Communications, Social Media » Anatomy of a Best-in-Class Pharma Facebook Page

Anatomy of a Best-in-Class Pharma Facebook Page

Last month, the Altimeter Group, a social media consultancy, released a report titled “The 8 Success Criteria For Facebook Page Marketing” – a set of common behaviors and attributes of corporate Facebook pages that they correlated with a high degree of social media success. Here are the eight criteria:

I think this is a reasonable set of criteria, albeit fairly conventional and a little nebulous (e.g., “live authenticity”). It’s clear that if your brand uses its Facebook page to do all the eight things listed above, you’ll have users who are generally pleased with your offering on the social network.

But the picture is different for brands in regulated industries, like pharma and healthcare, where compliance issues and fear of litigation can stunt social media development. Under Altimeter’s criteria, very few pharma brands would score high marks, so I went on a hunt for a great pharma Facebook page that reflected, as best as it could, the eight principles above.  Keep in mind, pharma companies cannot do much in the way of dialog, peer-to-peer interactions, or direct advocacy – FDA regulations regarding disclosure of risks and side effects mean that the industry is loathe to allow non-authorized communications.

Merck’s Gardasil, a vaccine for human papillomavirus (a virus that can cause cervical cancer), has one of the most popular pharma-industry Facebook pages. They did it not by advocating directly for a product, but by inspiring their target audience (young women) to treat vaccination as a cause. Their page, “Take a Step Against Cervical Cancer“, is best-in-class because of this. Let’s look at how they stack up against Altimeter’s eight criteria:

1) Set community expectations. By conventional standards, the Gardasil page doesn’t do this particularly well. The Facebook page, although it fully discloses all the risks and other legal caveats associated with the vaccine, doesn’t contain guidelines for the community. But, that’s because the Facebook page itself isn’t used to house a community; the wall is unused, and the network of cervical cancer activists (Cervical Cancer and HPV Awareness Ambassadors) is housed off-site.

2) Provide cohesive branding. Every page except the Wall and Info pages, the format of which is dictated by Facebook, is wrapped in Gardasil branding.

3) Be up to date. The Facebook page is regularly updated with new videos and testimonials from women who have had cervical cancer or HPV. Many of the most dynamic information, though, is housed off-site in the Ambassadors program.

4) Live authenticity. Real stories from real patients fill the page, and nowhere is the vaccine directly pitched to consumers. The message is consistent – we can, and will stop cervical cancer – and community participation makes it authentic.

5) Participate in dialog. Here’s where pharma companies run into tricky legal issues. According to US regulations, any “adverse event” reported to pharmaceutical companies related to one of their products must be reported to the FDA – and those “adverse events” can range from a phone call or e-mail to, you guessed it, a Wall post on Facebook. The result is that few pharma brands allow users to interact with the brand in any meaningful way, and Gardasil is no different.

6) Enable peer-to-peer interactions. There’s a fear of running afoul of regulation here, too – this time, over peer-to-peer interactions failing to adequately disclose risks. But Gardasil does a good job of changing the subject from direct advocacy of a particular product, to advocacy against a disease, and so they can feature video testimonials related to HPV and cervical cancer without needing to disclose the risks of the vaccine itself.

7) Foster advocacy. Here’s what Gardasil’s page does best. The entire “tools” section is designed to help users “make an impact” – including a form to take to your doctor, a tool to plan events, and an HPV quiz highlighting some of the more alarming aspects of the disease.

8) Solicit a call to action. The Gardasil page has an extremely simple and effective call to action: “Get educated, and tell a friend”. Every tool and service provided leads to one of those two ends.

Given the legal limitations, Gardasil’s page is an excellent example of pharma Facebook engagement done right. Do you know of any other examples?

Comments from the Network (2)

  1. Wide Angle » Negative Feedback in Pharma and Health
    on November 3, 2010

    [...] As of now (for better and for worse) pharma companies are largely protected from the vituperative nature of internet commenters – largely because they don’t cultivate much in the way of feedback. But earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held hearings into revising social media marketing guidelines for pharmaceutical companies. Among the changes considered is one that would strike or relax pharma’s requirement to report any and all adverse effects – even those received anonymously via the web – to the FDA. This burden is the main reason why pharma companies maintain notoriously one-way social media presences. [...]

  2. Wide Angle » 3 Ways Health Marketing is Changing
    on October 19, 2011

    [...] regulations are those surrounding side effect disclosure and “adverse event” reporting that I discussed last year – the result being that pharma companies can’t meaningfully participate in social media [...]

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