When Pfizer launched the first social media channel on SlideShare for a regulated industry, it was met with industry applause, but also some controversy. Case in point, and article Pharma News: Pfizer Channel criticized as ‘not social.’
Various criticisms have been raised against the channel, however, including the fact that it does not allow comments and accusations that it is simply a way for Pfizer to boost its profile. Experts have questioned whether the new venture can be called ‘social media’ when it simply provides one-way information.
It is currently under debate whether the pharmaceutical industry can legitimately engage through social media due to the strict regulations that govern its interactions with the public.
The FDA and pharmaceutical companies in the US are working towards establishing some ground rules to guide the industry’s online interactions, and these are likely to have an impact internationally.
I consider myself reasonably qualified to determine what is social and not. It took a little digging, as Pharma News doesn’t write articles with links, which must mean they are ‘not web.’ But here are some tweets:
Which raises some fair points, but comments are just one way to social within the power law of participation. And a lawyer might point out that comments directly on the content of a regulated company are a no-no. See Prem’s
post for a discussion on the legal risks at stake for regulated social media for Pfizer and others.
What Pfizer has accomplished so far sharing — in ways their industry should follow. The content is shared in an accessible way within the largest community of sharing professionals. People can favorite it, share and embed it. In other words, they they are weaving core content into the social fabric of the web. From there, conversations can occur in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.
Now, Pfizer does have employees on those networks where conversations can occur about the content. In fact they did:
Responding to critics on social media platform Twitter, Ray Kerins likened the current situation for pharma companies seeking to use social media to “assembling a child’s toy without the instructions”, adding: “SlideShare is part of our multi-year strategic digital//SM plan and we are happy with the progress.”
And people commented back:
London-based healthcare communications agency Aurora has defended the use of SM amongst UK pharma in its blog. The company’s Neil Crump wrote that “as pharma companies venture into this uncharted territory, our early champions must be encouraged, must be championed, must be nurtured. Otherwise we will lose them and we will be back to square one, and that would be a terrible shame.”
Sounds social. Regulation seems to introduce some friction to the process. What is said on the web sometimes goes through a vetting process, or is done by individuals qualified enough that regulated companies take risks on them. Regulation effects design, in the same way that form follows funding. You won’t find open comments under the brand of a a regulated institution anytime soon. Regulation also gives weight to to some parts of the web. Identity infrastructure, has evolved recently with promise for the distributed identity than we have seen before.
We’re often swift to say how regulation stifles innovation. But it also yields innovation. Not to work around it, but with it on values that are important in some fields like identity, privacy, trust and accountability. And being social.
Disclosure: I’m an advisor to SlideShare