Facebook to Let Pharma Disable Comments on Some Pages

  |  July 7, 2011   |  Comments

Product specific pages may be be permitted to prevent user comments.

Facebook may allow some pharmaceutical brand pages to disable comments after all. When Facebook revealed in May that it will no longer allow pharma marketers to prevent people from commenting on their pages after August 15, it created waves in the industry that are still rippling.

However some pages could still have comments disabled if they fulfill certain criteria. Specifically, as confirmed by Facebook, branded pages dedicated solely to a prescription drug could still disable comments after the mid-August changeover, subject to Facebook's approval.

"Our understanding is that if you have a page that has the product name and the generic name in the title and the page [content] is strictly about that product, you can submit to Facebook and they'll make the decision and might disable comments," said Jim Dayton, senior director of emerging media at Intouch Solutions, a pharma marketing agency.

"I think they're going to be much more discretionary in how and when they disable comments.... They're going to have some pretty hard and fast criteria," he said, noting he doesn't know what Facebook will base such decisions on.

In May, Facebook notified pharma marketing clients that after the August date it would no longer allow pharma brands to turn off commenting on their pages. Despite the fact that pharma brands are highly risk averse when it comes to discussions about their drugs and products in social media environments, the company said the decision was made in an effort to keep Facebook a forum for open dialogue.

Pharma firms that still want to have a Facebook presence are working to prepare for the change. Medimmune, maker of an influenza vaccine called FluMist, will be required to enable comments on its "Don't Wait Vaccinate" page on Facebook, for instance, since it is not product-specific. The company planned to meet this afternoon to discuss its plans on how to move forward with the page in light of the new rules, according to Glenn Byrd, senior director of regulatory affairs at Medimmune.

Some pharma marketers could use a workaround allowing them to moderate comments in a more controlled manner than Facebook itself enables. Intouch Solutions has developed its PharmaWall app which allows page admins to moderate comments. The tool places user comments in a moderation queue subject to approval, revision or deletion.

According to Dayton, using Facebook's moderation system alone, marketers are only able to control comments when keywords they've submitted to the system automatically trigger it to put a comment aside for closer inspection. "It's basically a really good profanity filter," said Dayton of Facebook's moderation system.

"We've been in almost daily or every-other-day contact with our Facebook reps," to ensure feasibility of the application, said Dayton. "Frankly we're building on their platform... We're looking to not violate any of their terms of use or terms of service."

Intouch is charging a licensing and setup fee for use of the app.

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