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Staying Safe In Social Means Paying Attention to the Details

Guest Blogger

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On the average day, we get a lot of questions about how to "do" social media in the pharma industry. Most people ask, "What’s the secret sauce?" The truth is, it isn’t a secret. Utilizing social media as part of a pharma company’s marketing mix is just like using any other channel. We’ve all read every piece of FDA guidance on pharmaceutical promotion along with every warning letter that has been issued. We’ve all attended the same conferences and heard representatives of the FDA and medical, legal and regulatory departments explain their interpretation of "the rules" and how we, as marketers, should apply them. The only difference we’ve ever seen in pharma is that you have to pay closer attention to the details. And, the details are the difference between staying safe and risking a warning letter.

Putting Attention to Detail to the Test

Recently, our Product Management team noticed a change on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. When anyone shared a piece of content using a sharing widget, "share" button or directly posting a link to the networks, the image that was attached to the link was not necessarily the image that had been assigned via the Open Graph Protocol. For most other industries, this would not be a big deal. But for pharma, this means that an image that was not the approved image for that specific piece of content may get shared with that content instead. For instance, a brand logo could get shared with a help-seeking message that contained no important safety information. We can probably all agree that situation wouldn’t be good.

Our team immediately went through a battery of questions, trying to understand what had happened and if the change was permanent. Since we offer two products that use the Open Graph Protocol, share»send»save® and ssshare.it, to deliver pharma-safe social sharing and URL shortening services, the team examined how the change was effecting these tools. For our clients using the ssshare.it URL shortening service, the change had no effect. In the end, our team’s attention to details and knowledge of the pharma industry when we initially developed these tools paid off. Because when you use a ssshare.it shortened URL in the Open Graph Protocol tags of your web pages, no other images are made available to be scraped by any of the social networks. So, the only image that can get shared is the approved image you assign. And, that is true for all of the approved Open Graph Protocol tags used with ssshare.it.

Don’t Try and Change the Channels

We all know that the social networks change how they do things on a nearly daily basis without always considering all of their customers. Simply looking at the Facebook Developers Blog shows this change was a "low-priority" bug that Facebook knew about but was not in any hurry to fix. Facebook had decided that not all images that are assigned to content by developers through their Open Graph Protocol are the most relevant images. Instead, Facebook chooses to "scrape" all the images on the page and rank the images for relevance. Then, the most relevant image is displayed. This doesn’t work for pharma. In our industry, we can only use the image that is approved regardless of Facebook’s relevance ranking.

As we noted above, this minor change to how Facebook handles its own Open Graph Protocol wasn’t a big deal to most industries. But pharma isn’t like most industries. We are highly regulated. The bigger challenge for us is realizing that emerging platforms are not going to bend to our needs. As marketers, we are going to have to pay attention to how all of these new platforms work and make intelligent decisions on how we integrate them into our marketing. And, in most cases, this means we will have to continue to sweat the details.

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