Pharmas need quality control, tech knowledge, and eagle eyes for social media
By Mia Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pharma companies still have a lot to learn as they navigate their way through various social media channels, and AstraZeneca’s voluntary removal of paid advertising on Twitter because of an inadvertent brand mention of Nexium in what was intended to be an unbranded ad serves as a recent example. Executives at healthcare agency Intouch Solutions say that this does not mean that pharma should not participate in social media; however, it does mean that they should proceed with caution. The agency has issued a POV to clients on the subject matter.
On Aug. 27, two AstraZeneca tweets appeared at first glance to concern disease awareness, according to the Intouch Solutions POV. But once a user expanded the tweets by clicking on the included link titled “view summary” the tweets revealed a summary for AstraZeneca’s YouTube channel. In addition, the summary included the name of the company’s acid reflux treatment, Nexium, without the required important safety information, which rendered the tweet non-compliant. This was due to a shortened link (bit.ly link) in the initial tweet and Twitter’s product, Twitter Cards. A few days later, AstraZeneca pulled the sponsored tweets down after being made aware that the unbranded content in its sponsored tweets, which had appeared in the Associated Press’ Twitter feed, actually had included the name of a prescription drug.
Intouch Solutions claims that the same could have happened to any company that did not understand Twitter Cards and what sites or companies were using them, but had AstraZeneca executives realized that YouTube had placed the Twitter Card meta tags on the AZPurpleZone channel, it all could have been avoided. AstraZeneca could have used this to its advantage and created an improved Twitter experience that transcended the 140 character limit. The AstraZeneca situation is similar to Novartis’ use of the ShareThis sharing widget on the company’s Tasigna site, which led the FDA to send a notice of violation letter. As with Novartis, non-compliant meta data was the culprit that led to the violation. In AstraZeneca’s case, no notice has been issued.
“This is a good example of where quality control, understanding the technology, and paying attention to details could mean the difference between a warning letter or not,” says Jim Dayton, senior director, business development, Intouch Solutions. “As we saw with the Tasigna letter to Novartis, there are many nuances within social media that demand careful attention. That doesn’t mean that pharma shouldn’t participate in social media. It just means they should do so with care.”
The FDA may not have known about what happened with AstraZeneca, and the fact that the company removed the sponsored tweets demonstrates no ill intent, Dayton told Med Ad News Daily. “Actually, that’s something that’s interesting about a lot of these types of issues: It’s not that pharmaceutical companies are trying to ‘pull one over’ on patients,” he says. “Sometimes they just lack the experience or the right resources to implement social media safely and effectively. It’s worth noting that, historically, AstraZeneca has been praised for their trailblazing on Twitter via @AstraZenecaUS and @AZHelps, including the industry’s first live Twitter chat in 2011.”
Although Twitter Cards are not exactly new, they have yet to become acclimated within pharma. “Twitter cards are about a year old, but still fairly new to the pharmaceutical industry,” Dayton told Med Ad News Daily. “In any situation where a third party is involved in ad placements, a level of control is lost and therefore more risk is introduced.”
If AstraZeneca was not able to use Twitter Cards and embedding meta data was not an option, the company could have used a different URL shortener in place of bit.ly, according to Intouch Solutions. “ssshare.it is the third product that Intouch Solutions invented for the industry with the same goal in mind: to help make social media a safer place for pharma,” says Dayton. The shortened links that ssshare.it creates do not allow Twitter Card meta tags to be enabled and the “view summary” link to be shown to the end user. Therefore, the Twitter Card for AstraZeneca’s tweet would have never shown up on Associated Press’ Twitter feed because the “view summary” link would not have appeared on the sponsored tweet. Intouch Solutions launched ssshare.it last summer.
“In all three cases, uptake has been steady, but these innovations were ahead of their time,” Dayton told Med Ad News Daily. “Until pharmaceutical companies get more deeply engaged in social media, they remain blissfully ignorant of the nuances of compliance within the channel. They didn’t realize they needed share>send>save until the Tasigna warning letter. And interest in PharmaWall increased dramatically when Facebook told pharma companies they could no long disable commenting on their pages. In short? ssshare.it is a service that pharma companies don’t realize they need until they see or experience the problem themselves.”
Posted: September 2013