Category Archives: Facebook

Four reasons why pharma is afraid of social media

I have been asked to talk about the topic of “Is Pharma Afraid of Social Media” at the GLC Social Media and Emarketing Forum this week in Frankfurt.  Had I been asked this question a few years ago, indeed even last year, I would have said a resounding “Yes”.  However times have changed and my initial response to this was “not anymore”.  But I thought I would reach out and ask the community and see what they thought.  I posted a poll  on Linkedin, and then shared it via Linkedin and Twitter.

I will have to admit that I was mildly surprised by the result (so far at least).   The first pleasant surprise was the talented Andrew Spong feeling inspired by my poll to write a blog post in response:

The second surprise was that I thought the majority of answers would go to “Yes and No” as opposed to “Yes” or “No” – if anything because it is the most neutral “depends”-like answer.  The result so far however is a resounding “Yes” with over 50% voting that Pharma is indeed afraid of social media.

Personally my response is the “Yes and No” because of the mix in responses to social media – there have been some great examples but there are also a large number of pharma companies failing to adequately engage via social media.  I can however understand the strong tendency towards the “Yes” vote – there are certainly enough examples of pharma being scared of social media.

Firstly, while there are many pharma companies that have undertaken great social media initiatives (like GE Healthcare’s current #GetFit initiative) there are far more examples of no initiatives or a lack of activity.  If we look at Facebook for example at first glance it looks like pharma is finally onboard as most of the big companies have some sort of Facebook presence.  On closer inspection however you will notice that very few have their walls open to posting – Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the few to do this.  This shows, in my opinion, a fear of opening up to conversation, questions and engagement.  By restricting your engagement simply to comments under your own posts you have some form of control – comments are less visible than posts and in theory will be focused around what you posted.  This reflects pharma’s fear of giving up control – something which is a reality on social media.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis's Facebook pages

Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis’s Facebook pages

Secondly is the age old regulatory argument.  As Andrew so rightly points out there are very few examples of regulatory bodies raising complaints or having issues with any of pharmas social media activity (including Boehringer Ingelheim’s full-on engagement approach).  Nonetheless this fact seems to have evaded a number of people in pharma.  Regulatory constraints is still the number one push back I get from pharma companies around why they are not active on social media.  It is a great, and very comfortable excuse.  It also highlights the fear of trying something “new” (even if social media really is no longer new).

Thirdly I believe politics and internal inefficiency is often holding companies back from publishing and pushing through social media guidelines.  Yes many companies have these (I like Andrew have also written quite a few!) but what I have also seen is that these guidelines get approved and may get shared with a few people at global and department level, but it is not unheard of to find out that people on the ground, at local level, have no idea that these guidelines exist, or if they do they are still to concerned to take the risk to implement.  For guidelines to be effective they have to be communicated, publicised and encouraged, from senior executives, otherwise they end up in drawers or getting ignored.

Finally I think the sad reality is there is still a great deal of “ostrich head in sand” syndrome in the industry – the concept that if I do not see or hear it then it does not exist or affect me.  I have often heard the reason / excuse for not doing social media that “it is not relevant to me / to my stakeholders”.  My response to that is “take your head out of the sand and look around”! There are very few instances when there is literally no value or use in social media.  Certainly all marketing and communications related departments, and those relating to clinical trials, can glean a great deal of insights just from social media listening.  As to stakeholders not using social media – this is an ever diminishing group – do they really warrant your total lack of attention in this area?

So there is still a great deal of fear of social media in pharma.  That said I am an optimist and I think that fear is diminishing.  I firmly believe if I redo this survey next year there will be a resounding majority answering “No” pharma is not afraid of social media.

And thanks again Andrew for the inspirational blog post (if you have got this far and have not yet read then I recommend it )

I have the power . . .

One wonderful thing about social media and new technologies is the power it places in individuals hands.  Where previously as an individual you either had to have actual power – e.g. be the Prime Minister, or be in a powerful role such as a journalist for a leading newspaper, today technology has placed power within reach of individuals and small groups.

This is particularly valuable when it comes to worthy causes and raising awareness.  Social media has enabled some very positive changes in healthcare – for example raising the awareness around the need for women to get screened for cervical cancer.  Often the awareness is driven by an organisation or charity, but at other times it can come from a dedicated individual who knows how to make full use of the channel.  Kelly Young, aka @Rawarrior, and author of the blog, springs to mind as a great example of an individual who does a great job in raising awareness and providing resources around a disease.

Now the reason I was inspired to write about this is actually not related to healthcare.  Rather my inspiration for this post comes from a very small and brand new charity called Hope for Romanian Strays set up by Aniela Ghita.  To me Aniela is a wonderful example, like Kelly Young, of the difference that one person can make – and how social media can then amplify that difference.

I first came across Aniela via my cat’s facebook page (  I saw a rather desperate post asking for help with a paralysed dog that had been rescued from the street.  Emily was a one year old terrier and along with her friend Aira – another rescue dog – had been found a forever home in the UK.  Emily and Aira’s new mum was going to pay for the medial expenses – including Emily’s expensive wheels – and a transport option had been found for them.  However the cost for the transport was around €1000 and Aniela had four days to raise the funds – the new mum could not afford to pay medical expenses and transport costs.

Paralysed Emily rescued from the streets and rehomed with a loving family in the UK

Years ago this would probably have been an impossible ask – but Aniela posted an event on Facebook and shared it with her network.  This was how I came across this heart-wrenching story.   My first concern was that this was one of the many scams but I decided to risk it anyway and donated – I felt that if this was genuine then I had to act to help get these two dogs both with horrific stories to a new loving home.  It was no scam and Aniela managed to raise the funds in time thanks to Facebook and Emily and Aira are now both very happy in their new home in the UK.  Had it not been for Facebook both these dogs would probably still be in a desperate condition in Romania but social media gave one woman the power to make a small change for the good and rescue these dogs.

For me this is truly inspiring to see passion and dedication like this becoming really effective, and making bigger changes thanks to a technology and channel that gives the individual the power to reach out to like minded people around the world and ask for help for such a worthy cause.  I salute all you individuals out there making these changes and doing good – and on behalf of all the dogs and cats you rescue I thank you Aniela!

As an addendum:  I am now working with Aniela to help further extend her work.  She has formally set up a charity called Help for Romanian Strays and you can find out more information via Facebook ,  Twitter @hopeforstrays and via the blog If you can help with your skills or wish to donate (or even better adopt) then please contact Aniela at  And of course please share!

The support of a cat’s Facebook page

When people talk about social media use by patients in healthcare the focus tends to be on how social media is used as support tool, for example through communities and forums, or as a source of information, for specific disease groups.  For me social media, especially Facebook, has mainly been a social place where I can maintain my friendships and networks, both locally and globally.  I have written in the past about my Facebook “addiction” – which I got over – but now I have to admit I have a new addiction.  However this time it is not to my Facebook page but that of Don Fulford, my cat, aka TheDonCat.

 Yes my cat has a Facebook page.  Whilst this may sound mad, there is good reasoning behind my move in setting up a page for The Don.  I adopted Don at the end of 2010 from the RSPCA and wanted to do something to raise funds for the RSPCA as a thank you for bringing such an amazing being into my life.  Not being overly sporty ruled out sponsored activities so I thought I would use my social media skills to raise money.  I decided that each new friend Don got on Facebook I would donate £1 and 10p for every comment on his wall.  This way I figured I could raise maybe £100 at most £200.  Little did I know!

What I discovered through Don’s Facebook page was an entire new community on Facebook. Don’s friends started off mainly with my friends but soon he got more and more new friends – and they were all cats!   There are thousands of pets on Facebook (and Twitter) – and many have their own “personality”.  Recently Don overtook me in the number of friends he had – he now has over 700.

One thing I learnt from this group was the real escapism that social media can offer.  Until now there had always been a deliberate purpose to going on Facebook.  Now I started going on because it was just fun.  It made me laugh out loud and sometimes when the real world is dragging you down this sort of escapist fun is a very healthy thing.  I really started looking forward to going on Don’s page – where people still post comments and status updates (unlike my page which is increasingly a string of links to articles and videos rather than personal updates).  Granted the status updates were all bogus but generally highly entertaining – I have even received feedback from my real world friends that they love Don’s status updates. 

The greatest surprise however came from the close knit, supportive community of like-minded people I came across – all via their cats.  A very distressing incident led to one of Don’s “best friends” disappearing from Facebook – all of a sudden the cat’s profile and all his comments had vanished.  Immediately people started posting and asking where he was – and we even started a “Where is Fred*” campaign – fearing that Facebook had removed Fred’s profile because Fred was not “real” but only a cat. The sad reality then emerged – Fred’s owner had had what, for the sake of this post, I will call a breakdown.  She was working stupid hours, had few friends in real life as she did not have time or money to go out, and had no one to turn to.  She posted a very traumatic update via Fred – a pure cry for help – and we all responded.

 I have never in my life seen such a movement of support between what were essentially total strangers separated by large geographic distances.  It actually made me cry.  It was a bit like an epiphany.  And it was also something that most people will probably not understand.  This fact in itself further increased the bonding as we all face the same comments – “mad cat lady” “you’re cat’s got a Facebook page?!  Are you deranged?” and so forth. 

It also turned out many of us face very similar health issues and we were all being open about it – talking  about depression, pain and chronic disease – albeit via our cat’s profiles.  The amount of times people wrote “me too” and “I know how you feel” was heart-warming and unifying.  The list of diseases was very varied – cancer, depression, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypothyroidism, etc, – but we all shared the same feelings and anxieties.  Here was a group of people on a social media network, none of whom knew each other, communicating via their cats, all being able to relate to each other and not just because we were all cat lovers.  Many of the group saw their pets as one of their key support tools to help them cope with their disease – myself included.  Facebook was just an extension of this.

The cats’ Facebook pages had opened up a world to us all of like-minded people seeking escape from what for some is a very painful real life.  And here we stumbled upon total strangers who had come together to support one of the group who could not cope anymore.  Through Fred’s Facebook page she received 24 hour encouragement, friendship but most importantly the support in knowing she was no longer alone.  She may have been alone and without a support network offline but here was a group of friends who were there for her, to hold her hand virtually through this tough time.

 This to me showcases an invaluable resource and tool that social media offers us.  It links people across the world who share similar issues and difficulties and who can be there to provide the sort of support that patients with chronic disease often lack in real life – and it is there 24 hours a day because thanks to the internet people can come together across time zones and countries.  It is also a sad reality of life that many patients put on a brave face to the outside, offline world, and to friends and family.  Social media can offer a “safe” environment to be open and honest with a total stranger without risking ridicule or shame in the real world – the brave through their own name, but for others through the safety of their pet.

 I am proud of my “mad cat” friends and I think we may have saved a life thanks to Facebook – and that is very powerful indeed.


Don and his chums's after too much catnip

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

**PS please do not be-friend me on Facebook – I only befriend people I actually know and have met – but feel free to befriend The Don.

I “Like” your brand . . . so what?

I am a huge Facebook user and have in the past been a self-confessed Facebook addict – even my cat has a Facebook page (although I hasten to add that his page has been set up to raise money for the RSPCA). Being the social sort of person I am I also have quite a large number of friends and I also “like” quite a few brands.


For me one of the main reasons I love Facebook is that it enables me to stay in touch not only with friends in London but with my friends living abroad.  Whereas previously I would have had to write loads of letters and/or travel a great deal in order to stay up to date with my friends living in other countries now all I need to do is check on Facebook.


However given the number of friends I have, and the increasing number of brands that I “like”, it potentially could make my newsfeed un-manageable.  I could change it to “Top News” but I found by doing this I do not receive the most recent news and I also miss out on news from friends who are not such avid Facebook users and only post occasionally.  The way I manage this is simple – I hide the newsfeed from people or brands I do not want to see.  


This brings me on to brands on Facebook.  As mentioned I “like” quite a few brands – either because I am a genuine fan of the brand, for example Marmite, or because I want to make a statement, for example “Stop using photos of your kids as your profile picture – it’s annoying”, or because I genuinely am interested in updates about the brand, for example the RSPCA.  This does not mean however that I want to follow everything the brand does or that I will happily waste my time going through dull or pointless brand posts. 


A basic measure of success for brands on Facebook seems to be the number of people who “like” the brand’s page – and while this is true to a degree it ignores the potential of people to hide posts from Facebook pages.  If a brand does not post news or messages that resonate and are of interest to its followers then it is simple enough for these followers to hide all future posts and just forget about the brand’s page.  Whilst the number of “likes” might increase the number of real followers may in fact decline.


This is a serious issue.  Firstly it highlights the point that using the number of “likes” as a measure of success if flawed.  Secondly there is the issue that once a follower hides a newsfeed they will probably never read any more posts from the brand (I do not know many people who un-hide brand newsfeeds once hid).  This is a huge lost opportunity which is unfortunately often overlooked. 


From a branded perspective this is an issue is because it removes one element of “engagement” – not only getting messages in front of potential followers but also from getting feedback from them.  Having a branded post appear on someone’s Facebook newsfeed is a great opportunity to stay top of mind and remind people of the brand.  For example I follow Bloom Gin and Pimm’s but found the Bloom Gin updates dull and too promotional whilst the Pimm’s updates were more rounded and fun.  I ended up hiding Bloom Gin but still have Pimm’s in my newsfeed – and I do find that if I have a drink Pimm’s is top of mind (although probably helped by the fact that it is THE summer drink!).


Given how easy it is to “like” a brand, and the fact that people have different motivations for “liking” different brands, the brand also needs to recognise that not all the followers will want to actually follow the brand.  With this in mind posts need to be carefully targeted at the key followers and the page should be designed around these key people, rather than trying to please the 1,000s of others who may just be following to make a statement.  For example I “like” Amazon (in fact I love Amazon) but I have no interest in the latest Amazon deals – mainly because I am not deal driven but rather use Amazon when I fancy doing some online shopping or I have an actual need.  That does not mean that Amazon should not be posting about the latest deals – I suspect it is a great way for them to drive traffic as many of the fans who “like” Amazon would be interested in these posts.


This staying top of mind and posting content that resonates with the target audience could also be a great benefit to health-related brands – but only if the posts are interesting enough for people not to hide them.  Reminding patients for example of the importance of exercise for example need not be a dull, “big brother” type post but could be done in a way that is fun and engaging – for example by posting a video of a kitten running around (after all everyone loves kitten videos!).  Given the regulatory hurdles needed to get many of the health-related brands onto Facebook it is a shame that all that effort is then wasted as even if people “like” the page they do not actually follow it.



The key fact is that Facebook is all about personal relationships and it truly is a social channel.  For a brand to succeed beyond just collecting “likes” it needs to be written in a personal, engaging way, recognising the needs and interests of the followers.  Real success should be measured in the level of engagement rather than looking at “likes”.  Whilst it is impossible to measure how many people actually read the posts a level of engagement can be seen by looking at how many followers actually interact with the brand.  Chances are if there are never any comments or “likes” on the wall no one is reading the posts!

Digital Media Agencies not doing digital

Today one of my twitter chums, Andrew Spong, posted a very valid comment on twitter about digital agencies and their own use of twitter (see the image).  Essentially if as a digital agency you are not regularly using your twitter account then do not highlight your twitter account on your home page.  Very wise words indeed.



This reminds me also of a comment made by @skoko a while back about digital media agencies practicing what they preach.  How can a digital agency be credible if it does not participate actively and effectively in at least some form of digital media.  Most digital agencies now have very snazzy websites – and how those that do not (and they do exist) get any digital business is beyond me. 


Websites are still generally the first port of call for potential clients and as such a website needs to accurately reflect the business you are in and your skill areas.  If you are a company supposedly skilled in digital having a poorly designed website is not a good start.  There is of course the danger that some websites become too “over-ambitious” – lots of dazzling flash imagery and pop-out boxes all looking great but not much actual content.  Websites need to be visually appealing but also need to be functional.  They need to grab enough attention to hold the visitor when they first land on the website – and here the visual impact is crucial – but also contain the information a visitor is looking for and expects to find on the website.  This information also needs to be easy to find or the visitor will give up and look elsewhere.  This is actually a big problem with pharma websites but that is worthy of a post all to itself.


Some of the things to consider for websites are:

  1. Objective: What is the objective of the website?  Is it to sell products / business, provide information, etc?
  2. Audience: Who is the target audience and what is of value to them? What content do you expect and need to find?  How are they accessing the website? What search terms are they using to get to the website? etc
  3. Internal factors: What are your internal resources dedicated to the website now and in the future?  Do you have the manpower to keep the website updated?  Do you have the budget to maintain the website? etc
  4. External factors: How is the competition using their website?  Are there industry events that will impact traffic to the website? etc


If as an agency you have not looked at the above when building your own website then how can you advise clients on theirs?!


These days I also expect to see a link to any social media on the homepage (and this goes for pharmaceutical companies too).  I expect a digital agency to be active on twitter, have video footage on YouTube and to have a blog.  I am not that fussed about a Facebook page to be honest – to me Facebook is a personal space and I do not go there for business – but if your business is digital you probably should have a presence on Facebook.  Of course it goes without saying that you also need to make sure your company’s Linkedin page is kept up to date.


Starting with Twitter, and Andrew’s tweet, I think it is fair to say that not all digital companies are doing brilliantly well here and Andrew is quite right – if you are not doing it well do not highlight it!  I know of one UK digital media agency at least that as of today had not tweeted since the beginning of May – that is over one month of nothingness. I also recently had a discussion with another agency (also not very active on twitter) that said twitter was too time consuming.  My response to that both these points is . . . yes building relationships is time consuming but that is what business development is also all about!  How can you advise clients on how to run a twitter campaign if you yourself are unable to actively and effectively use the communication channel?  Personally I have made some great business contacts through twitter and I strongly believe that by being active on twitter I as an individual build up my credos in digital media (providing I stick to saying relevant things and do not start drunk tweeting!).


My advice regarding twitter would be to make it the responsibility of one person and make it part of their job role.  The chances are there is already at least one person in the office active on twitter – maybe see if they would be interesting in taking on the role.  Another option is to split the responsibility up between various people – but personally I am not a fan of this method.  Twitter is about a conversation and developing relationships – unless the team working on this are very clearly aligned and have very similar communication styles and closely follow what the others tweet it could soon become a very disjointed twitter account – essentially a multiple personality twitter. As to the time element – tweeting is not about taking hours out of a day.  A quick glance at the twitter account a few times during the day (which takes all of five minutes all being well) and posting, responding or re-tweeting once a day (which again takes all of five minutes) would suffice.  


The other bit of twitter advice I would give is not to just post company information such as “check out our new blog post” or “we just won this shiny award”.  While that obviously should be tweeted that type of content is not particularly engaging – and personally I find it a bit dull most of the time.  What makes for an engaging twitter account is not only posting new content (and yes here you can post the corporate blog posts) but also re-tweeting and sharing interesting articles (not written by the company) and taking part in conversations.  An example of this is some of the agencies, such as @aurorahealthpr and @streamingwell, who take part in the various tweet-ups such as #HCSMEU.  Not only do they engage using twitter they also highlight their expertise and knowledge.


Moving onto YouTube – admittedly not every agency will have video content but if they do then it should be on YouTube and sign-posted to via the corporate website.  What every agency should have however are slide decks which they can share – for example the standard “this is us” pitch deck – and this should be shared.  It can be turned into a video – you can add music, a few images etc – and then posted on YouTube or it could be shared via Slideshare (an under-utilised resource in my opinion).


Agency blogs are also a bit hit and miss – some agencies have regularly updated, content rich blogs/articles  (e.g. whilst others have blogs that they only update sporadically and others have no intellectual content at all.  Blogs and articles are essentially a great way of highlighting the company’s thinking and its intellectual capital.  If a potential client reads a really engaging and thought provoking blog post or article they have a more positive image of the company.  Of course the opposite is also true – a badly written, poorly thought-out blog post or article leaves clients walking away with a negative opinion.  Whilst not updating blogs is obviously a sign of how furiously busy an agency is doing tons of great work (!) it is also a lost opportunity to share the agency’s great thinking.  The time element again crops up with blogs – writing articles and posts is time consuming and very few people really have time to dedicate to this.  One way round this is to encourage all employees to write blog posts (which can be signed off by a dedicated blog person) – why should it be down to just one person to do all the writing?  If it is down to one person then this clearly needs to be part of their job role and they need objectives set up against this.


As to Facebook – wary as I am of corporate Facebook pages I think if you work in digital and you will be advising clients on the use of Facebook you should really have a Facebook page yourself.  However I say that because I think I ought to – if you do not have a corporate Facebook page no worries!  As long as no one else sets one up for you instead that is and hijacks your brand name.  As Facebook pages move more towards a blend of website and twitter streams though I think it is getting easier to have a corporate Facebook page.  You can stream your tweets via it already providing you with regularly updated content (that is if you have followed the above advice about twitter).  You can also post your updated blog posts on Facebook (again providing you are writing decent blog posts).  You can also use the Facebook page to share interesting articles – except of course you are already doing this via the twitter account – doh!


What is important with a Facebook page is the ensure it is regularly checked and comments responded to (if appropriate).  Engagement can be solicited by posting questions – for example The Cat’s Whiskas (aka Whiskas cat food)  regularly asks its fan’s what they are up to, what their cat likes, etc – and fans do respond.  Today The Cat’s Whiskas posted a new Maru cat box video (and if you have not see Maru do his tricks check this out: and within three hours it had over 270 likes and 78 comments as well as tons of cat posts on the wall.  It comes back to the human element of social media – whoever is posting for The Cat’s Whiskas on Facebook has personality and the posts always feel personal (as opposed to corporate) and by someone who gets cats. 


This really is perhaps one of the main rules of social media even when it is from a corporate perspective.  Social media is about relationships and people.  Any social media elements need to be sufficiently personal in order to be effective.  Ideally it needs to be done by someone who is social, has decent social skills and who enjoys social media – and this may not always be the most “appropriate” or senior person in the organisation.  Being active on social media from an agency perspective is not only a good way of demonstrating the agency “gets” social media it is also a good way of making the agency more personal and highlighting the agency culture and thinking.  When it comes to choosing which agency to work with clients essentially buy people as well as skills – it is all about the personality and the ability to communicate effectively.

The Light Fantastic

Last night I watched a very poignant documentary about Terry Pratchett, the author of The Light Fantastic, and assisted dying in Switzerland  ( Terry Pratchett happens to be one of my favourite authors and he is a very articulate man who also has Alzheimer’s – making this a very moving and thought provoking documentary.

 This documentary covered the very controversial and highly emotive topic of assisted suicide – and whether terminally ill people should have the right to die at home, without pain and at a time of their choosing.  It is a very difficult and painful topic and, for anyone discussing this online via social media, potentially fraught with some very vocal opinions and unpleasant discussions.

 Looking at this issue, and some of the potentially controversial opinions that get raised via comments and online discussions, makes it a little easier to understand pharma’s reticence to get involved in social media.  Here is a very good example of the difficulty in enabling comments on Facebook pages and other social media resources – potentially the resource could get inundated with controversial comments.

 It also highlights the importance of monitoring but also the potential size of resource needed to do this.  Any topic that people feel strongly about is more likely to get shared and lead to more comments.  This means that the there needs to be daily monitoring of comments – and by daily I do not mean one hour in the morning but I mean at intervals throughout the day. 

For blogs, such as this one, the issue is easier to handle as you can approve the comments before they go live however when it comes to Facebook the action is retro-active – meaning that there is a real sense of urgency and speed.  Any potentially offensive, harmful or illegal comments need to be removed (ideally) immediately.  This naturally does not happen if you only have a single person checking the page once a day – by the time they check the next day the discussion could have blown up and taken over – making it very hard to handle.

 The trouble is however with restricted (and often decreasing) budgets how can a company ensure that they can fund the necessary resources needed to monitor a social media initiative? Often it falls under the marketing team’s remit to do this monitoring in addition to their day jobs and essentially this may mean a once daily check – but as already mentioned above this is highly unlikely to be sufficient. 

 One option is to use an external agency or programme – but again this can be very expensive.  Another option is to consider using a “cheap” resource such as an intern or fresh graduate recruit to do the regular monitoring at various points throughout the day.  This would need to be set up by starting with some very clear general guidelines but also guidelines specific to the initiative itself.  These would provide the intern with guidance in the day to day handling of the social media initiative.  However there would also need to be some more senior (and consequently more “expensive”) input but this could be limited to providing guidance (e.g. via weekly meetings) and then being on hand to step in during times of crisis or particularly strategic conversations.  This way cost effective, ongoing monitoring can be provided whilst at the same time having resources on hand for any negative eventualities.

 With sufficient resources and ongoing monitoring in place a pharma company could set up a social media resource and would be ready for any comments – even controversial ones

ADHD Moms – Why Facebook?

There has been quite a lot of discussion around the recent announcement that Facebook will no longer allow pharma to disable comments on their Facebook pages.  I have mixed feelings about this – but that’s for another post.  What this change in Facebook did make me wonder about was how well pharma Facebook pages without comments enabled have been doing.

I dug up an old post on whydotpharma (  where there was a mention of the ADHD Moms Facebook page (sponsored by JNJ’s McNeil).  The post written in February 2009 makes reference to the page having nearly 8,000 “Likes”.  Two years later this page, still with comments disabled, has risen to 22,079 “Likes”.  One of the arguments for enabling Facebook comments is that without this functionality the Facebook page will not be able to develop the community and will therefore not be as successful as it could be. However I would argue that a growth of 275% over two years indicates that this is a successful Facebook page!

The title of the page, ADHD Moms, would indicate it is a community page and yet there is no real community functionality.   What is it that makes people “Like” this page then?  There is an element of community in the “Moments” tab where people are able to leave comments – but this is not being done on the wall as is usual (and where it would be more visible).  The page does have some good resources such as useful links and podcasts and content is provided by “Leaders” which are a JNJ paid medic and some “ADHD moms”.  All in all not bad – but more like a website than a Facebook page.  So why not just set up a website – why set it up on Facebook?

The answer is of course that Facebook has become one of the key “go-to” places on the internet and McNeil was simply following the old adage of “fishing where the fish are”.  People are searching Facebook for health information therefore McNeil simply set up a resource for ADHD Moms where they are present.

What will happen to this page in August once comments will have to be enabled?  I hope McNeil does the brave thing and go ahead with the page with comments enabled.  This is after all not a product site but a site for mothers to come together as a community around a disease their children suffer from.  Enabling comments seems like the right thing to do.