Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pharma Companies: Hire a Community Manager Instead of Deleting Your Facebook Pages

A few months ago, I blogged about Facebook's impending decision to make life hard for pharmaceutical companies. According to today's Washington Post, these changes will be going live tomorrow, forcing most pharma pages that have previously had closed walls to open them to allow comments. What isn't clear in the article is whether this means that Facebook is making all page's wall comments open, or whether this is specific to just pharma pages. As you know if you're the admin of a Facebook page now, admins now have the ability to choose whether the wall is open to all comments or just posts by the page:

 (Sorry, couldn't do the screen capture with the "Wall Tab Shows" pull-down showing the other option, which is Only Posts by Page.)

The Post article talks about how some pharma companies will be deleting their pages once the walls are open for comment because of the risk of leaving them open. Really? I mean, I get that pharma companies are in a tough spot with the FDA regulations about reporting adverse events, but honestly, it is not that big of a deal in my opinion. I've worked on pharma regulatory affairs contracts and know about the adverse event reporting procedures, and I've also worked as the community manager of Facebook pages, and combining the two would not be the end of the world.

The article quotes an AstraZeneca spokesman: "We're very strongly committed to social media, but we have to make sure the amount of time and resources spent on [monitoring it for problems] is appropriate." What I'd like to know is since when is spending money an insurmountable problem for pharma companies? Guess what? Social media costs money, just like advertising and sales and everything else pharma companies have no problems spending astronomical amounts of money on. How much would it cost for each of the companies mentioned in the article as planning to delete their pages to just hire someone to monitor the pages for comments and, when necessary, make sure any adverse events reported on the wall are entered into the database? Really, not that much. I've done that job, as have many others like me, and it's not that huge of a job and certainly wouldn't bankrupt the companies to pay someone to monitor the pages.

How do pharma companies think other companies do it? They set moderation block lists in the page's admin settings. They use tools like Buddy Media to set up sophisticated filters to flag comments that might need addressing, or to just block them from appearing on the wall at all. They have actual humans whose jobs are to monitor Facebook 24/7 and address issues as they arise. It's not that serious. Does it cost money? Sure. But how much money did each of the companies already drop on designing the pages and publicizing them? Plenty. Why spend all that time and money creating a page and promoting it, only to just delete it?

I digress, but seriously, pharma companies--in case you read this before you delete your page--how about just hire a community manager and not flush your Facebook page down the toilet?

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