A response to closing the Psoriasis 360 facebook page

Alex Butler

The Social Moon

As a former employee of Janssen, I am publically linked to the Psoriasis 360 facebook page, so the announcement of its withdrawal has sparked a large number of people to reach out to me through the social channels for my response, some in public and many more in private.

It will come as no surprise when I say I cannot speak to the specific decision to remove the page as I left Janssen in October 2011. I first started to plan the social integration of the broader Psoriasis 360 patient support programme towards the end of 2008 and early 2009 which, amazingly, is now over three years ago.

It would be wrong of me to make a judgement on closing down the facebook page without the knowledge and context that comes from working within the organisation. One thing I am sure of is that the people I worked alongside at Janssen are extremely committed to supporting patients in all the disease areas in which they work. According to the information currently on the Psoriasis 360 page, the other elements of the campaign, including website, YouTube channel and Twitter account will remain in place.

“…the people I worked alongside at Janssen are extremely committed to supporting patients in all the disease areas in which they work.”

That said, I really wanted to give my perspective on the broader issues that have been raised by others on this announcement, rather than the Psoriasis 360 facebook page itself. With this in mind there have been three questions I have been asked most frequently over the last few days:

1. Should pharmaceutical companies be in social media?


While the approach of having a facebook page as part of an integrated educational campaign was breaking new ground in October 2010, we have since seen numerous successful ‘socialised’ campaigns and communication strategies across the industry on facebook and in many other social channels.

Pharmaceutical companies are looking to expand and open their strategy both corporately and from within sales and marketing to meet the needs of the 21st century. An understanding of how people communicate personally on the internet, build communities and collaborate, sometimes for the good of the broader community, and often for the advancement of science and medicine, has not gone unnoticed. It is starting to be addressed.

I believe that it is a responsibility for pharmaceutical companies to make their patient support as relevant as possible.

Probably a more pertinent question I have been asked is…

2. Is it possible for a pharmaceutical company to manage a facebook page?


Moderation is not about what you remove or censor but how much you put into directing, managing and responding to people in real time. This connection is at the heart of a social media engagement strategy, especially on facebook. A community needs direction and management, when this is provided it is amazing how focussed people can be. So for example, if someone posted an open question about treatment options that are available, this could open up discussion about specific treatments, as a result of other people offering up help and advice. If a void is left, through lack of moderation, then of course you will have a challenging situation on your hands. To stem this at source, the expert moderator simply advises the questioner where to go for more information so they can be better advised. Having moderated facebook pages in this way for many years this approach always works.

“A community needs direction and management, when this is provided it is amazing how focussed people can be.”

There are numerous places people can talk about medications. With the right focus derived from the key elements of the company’s strengths and vision, the current digital landscape and customer needs you can develop and foster engagement that is focussed around conversations within regulatory boundaries. More importantly you need core conversions that constitute meaningful return on investment for the business. Community management, on facebook and any other social platform, requires resourcing, content strategy and simple process/approval flows along with long-term commitment and a constant reminder of the value this brings to the business.

3. Can pharma expect return on investment from social campaigns?

This has been a question for a long time. The truth is that in many ways it is the same as asking if there is return on investment for any non-sales focused activity undertaken by a company such as corporate communications or indeed a disease awareness campaign with no integrated social elements. With a well-constructed campaign there is, for the bad ones probably not. People have changed and expect a level of social engagement, campaigns that are not social miss out. The key is to understand how you translate business objectives into contributory as well as core value conversion measures.

Contributory measures broadly translate to reach and in isolation are meaningless e.g. low numbers are not necessarily an indicator of poor performance if you were undertaking a targeted campaign. The power comes when contributory measures are paired with core value conversion measures, where you assess influence and engagement that map to behavioural change that supports the critical success factors of your business. This could be a tool to help a patient understand the impact of their condition and enable them to have a better discussion with a doctor or it could be a doctor playing an immersive game that trains them in the application of a new medicine with their patients in a real world setting.

To sign off, I am pleased to have worked on social campaigns at Janssen. It is now for each pharmaceutical company to decide if they want to reach the people they need to with the platforms and communication channels that have changed the world. I am thoroughly enjoying helping my healthcare and pharmaceutical clients to do this.

About the author:

Alex has very recently founded the online marketing communications agency The Social Moon (@the_social_moon) to provide the highest quality digital marketing communications in healthcare.

Prior to this, Alex worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade with six years at Janssen (Johnson &amp, Johnson) in numerous roles, culminating in him being senior lead in Johnson &amp, Johnson Strategic Marketing for Marketing Communications responsible for Europe, Middle East and Africa. This role worked above international brand and communications teams to deliver core integrated marketing and communications platforms, through the use of new marketing models and social enterprise strategy.

Alex is often cited as a key thought leader for digital marketing and health care social media in pharmaceuticals. He has overseen numerous award winning projects including the design, implementation and management of the world’s first Facebook pharma disease information community with open commenting and the UK’s first corporate pharmaceutical company twitter account. In addition, he developed a social charter, approval process and business toolkit for Janssen to move it towards becoming an innovative social business and leading to numerous digital awards for the company during his tenure.

Personal awards for Alex include becoming the first pharmaceutical recipient of the Johnson &amp, Johnson James Burke global marketing award for ‘Uncommon courage’, numerous PM Society Digital awards (including three in 2011 for Psoriasis 360). He was also the inaugural recipient of the John Mack ‘Pharmaguy’ Global Social media Pioneer award in October 2010.

Alex is keenly interested on the impact new media has had on advertising and is an invited member of the prestigious Wharton University ‘Future Of advertising’ Global Advisory Team.

He can be reached by emailing alex@thesocialmoon.com.

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