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Facebook Timequake Coming for Pharma 3/30!


Time-TunnelIf you have any doubts on who is in charge of calling the shots on Social Media, stop wondering. It’s Facebook, by size and impact. The platform is in control and the timelines to adapt to change are shortening. Facebook rolled out Timeline to brands on 2/29 and all brand pages will be forced to convert to the new layout if they have not opted in already on 3/30, no exceptions. We had a few months to look at the implementation for individuals, so at least we had a preview of what was coming at us.

There are some fascinating case studies of what brands have done to leverage Timeline, particularly brands with a rich history, such as The New York Times, or Coke. I’ll leave those analyses to others, my concern is what will happen to heavily regulated industries, like pharma. A collection of those other articles is here.

It seems just yesterday that we had to adapt to open commenting on pages (previous blog post Facebook Pharma Earthquake), but the changes today are in some ways more substantial in that they will force brands to truly engage or be sidelined. Take your pick, Timequake or Time Tunnel, there are lots of people who’d like to roll the clock back right now.

I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the most significant changes driven by Timeline, and just lay out the possibilities and issues with each of them (see the articles above for an introduction to these features). So, this is not a post for neewbies.

Cover Photo

Cover photos are the main billboard upon entering any page. For brands with a visual approach they can be a huge plus. Facebook rejects cover pictures that have an overtly promotional motive, such as a call to action, etc. However, a big issue with pharma is fair balance – reasonably similar prominence of risk information along with any claims. Cover pages are a natural location to make this happen. Will Facebook reject covers with disclosure or legalese embedded in the image? For now, Facebook has said, no ISI in the cover photo.

Pinned Posts

Pinned posts are an exciting new feature that span the full width of the page and are ‘pinned’ to the top of the stream. After 7 days they revert to their proper place on the timeline. Since they are juxtaposed with the cover picture there is great potential to use them for a call to action and/or necessary disclosure. You could potentially game the system by re-pinning them every 7 days – high maintenance, but perhaps high opportunity. There are character limits that will limit their ability so be used for disclosure.

Starred Posts

Starred posts span the stream and will draw substantial attention. Any brand can use them to illustrate important milestones. Conservative regulatory teams could use them for precautions and disclosures.

Private Messaging

Private messaging has the allure of being a way to handle AEs or troublesome conversations and keep them off the wall. Private Messaging has to be initiated by the user, not the page. Through placement of prominent community standards, we could communicate that this is the preferred messaging for AEs and off-label concerns.

Personalized Experience

The page now shows your friend’s interaction with the page as part of its very fabric. Regulatory teams get hives with dynamic pages. There is the possibility of AEs, off-label or just trolling there. Can it be moderated? Facebook has said the API is open, so leading vendors like Liveworld should be a help. InTouch Solutions PharmaWall has adapted to the changes and remains an excellent solution.

To Sum Up

There may be ways to hack the new Facebook ecosystem and make pages acceptable from a compliance and regulatory point of view. Though that’s a huge barrier on it’s own, the larger issue is that unless brands truly engage  they are becoming more and more invisible and irrelevant in an individual’s Facebook experience. Unless pharma and healthcare brands maintain an active and engaged wall, their share of voice in a users stream will be negligible.

Pharma pages will be making a choice over the next week whether to pull out the tent pegs and leave, or decide that the long term reward of true engagement effort is worth the effort. Yesterday the Janssen UK Psoriasis page decided to close. The reasons given were the effort required for moderation (per John Mack’s blog), but I wonder if adapting to Timeline was a trigger. It’s another Facebook Deathwatch (well documented by Dose of Digital last Summer).

Please comment below.

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  • johnwesgreen

    Excellent post.  Your coverage of the changes and the potential implications on Pharma marketing is extremely helpful.  It will be interesting to see which Pharmco takes the risk and lives on the cutting edge.  Should we start taking bets?  
    John Wes Green

  • JasonBoies

    It DOES seem a bit coincidental that the P360 page came down this close to the Timeline launch.
    I know it’s not very “social” but Is the Whitelisting option not available with Timeline?
    Good post, Btw. 🙂
    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community

  • Yes, interesting times. I reached out to Facebook and was told “Whitelisting is still an option on the new brand page provided the page is named for a product.”

  •  @JasonBoies  Yes, interesting times. According to my Facebook contact: “Whitelisting is still an option on the new brand page provided the page is named for a product.” There are not too many of them. We’ll see what happens after today.

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