What Enterprise Can Learn From the FDA Social Media Hearings


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“May you live in interesting times” is as much a Chinese curse as it is a blessing and in so many ways it can be applied to the recent happenings with the FDA hearings on social media  in Washington late last week.  The FDA invited more than 60 speakers to present their perspective on social media as it related to direct to consumer (DTC) advertising, media, reporting and essentially accountability driven by social media. Now that the floodgates are open in this remarkable event, there is now a requirement to react and to develop best practice guidelines and regulations around transparancy.  One could argue that what is happening in pharma is just the tip of the iceberg of whats to come for business and organizations worldwide.

A good blog post by Econsultancy summarizes the thrust of the FDA hearings focus as being centered on answering the following questions:

  • For what online communications are manufacturers, packers or distributors accountable?
  • How can manufacturers, packers or distributors fulfill regulatory requirements in their Internet and social media promotion, particularly when using tools that are associated with space limitations and tools that allow for real-time communications?
  • What parameters should apply to the posting of corrective information on Web sites controlled by third parties?
  • When is the use of links appropriate?
  • How should adverse event reporting be addressed online? 

In essence, the hearings really focused on the question of of accountability and transparency is an organization responsible for through the social channel. This is a real groundbreaking  on the part of the FDA to consider and try to understand what is happening in social media. It  is it changing the rules of engagement  now that customers and consumers have a vibrant and ever present medium to communicate and share their opinions and experiences. 

While much of this discussion and information exchanged is specifically related to the healthcare industry, in many ways it brings to light the disruptive and game-changing nature of social. While B2B face a different set of challenges than pharmaceutical, the lessons learned from this FDA event drive home that the social channel can not be ignored – or worse- banned from the enterprise. It is widely used and its impact is in fact significant.

Organizations need to figure out a way to appropriately integrate social media awareness, responsiveness and monitoring into their best practice operations.  Brand managers can not turn a blind eye to the power and impact of social influence .Customers, clients, patients, users are engaging online and this is a force that can’t be stopped.  Clients are talking but are you responding?  How should you react or respond to issues that fly across the twitter channel? How seriously do you need to take one customer’s issues – whether or not they are raised in a public forum or not?  Do you have a best practice triage plan or a social media policy to help guide employees use of social media as a company representative?  These and many more are the business questions that emerge through the trigger of the FDA hearings as applied in a business context. 

Whats to come of the FDA hearings remains uncertain but they are now armed and able to think strategically about how to make the best use of the information before them from the social channel. Are you?


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