A few weeks ago, reports of Google Sidewiki were flying across the Internet. If you have not heard of it, here is an article from the Google blog that explains this new feature. In brief, Google Sidewiki allows anybody on the Internet to download the Google toolbar with Sidewiki, thus making it possible for them to post comments on any website, whether the website is set up to receive comments or not. Only those with the Google Sidewiki will be able to see the comments written by others. The Sidewiki appears as a column to the left of the website, and that is where all the Sidewiki comments appear. Some have described this as e-graffiti or e-post-it-notes. However you label it, this obviously causes concern for the pharmaceutical industry.
Yesterday I posted an article that highlighted some of the discussions that took place at the recent PAAB social media marketing workshops. In that post, there was a mention that Canadian pharma companies who ALLOW comments to be written on their website need to monitor them and edit / delete them based on the Canadian regulatory guidelines and their company’s social media policies. Google Sidewiki causes a dilemma in these situations, because a risk-averse company that decides to not allow comments to be written, no longer has a choice in the matter. In fact, a company that does allow comments on their website may feel as though their monitoring and editing workload has expanded as a result of this new additional method for site visitors to add comments. Pharma companies do not control what happens on the Internet, and cannot control how the public uses such innovative web tool. So what do we do?
There is no definite answer yet on how to manage this, however Astra Zeneca has taken a leadership role in addressing the issue. I read about this on the ‘Eye on FDA’ blog and felt it was so important that I wanted to share it with my Canadian pharma and medical marketing colleagues as I believe this solution is at least a good start for most pharma and medical companies here in Canada.
In short, the Astra Zeneca U.S. webmaster took action by writing a disclaimer that explains that the company is not responsible for any of the comments written using the Google Sidewiki toolbar… and he or she did so using Google Sidewiki. That way, the very 1st comment that anybody sees on the AZ Sidewiki is that of AZ themselves. Brilliant way to manage a situation that seems so out of our control.
My recommendation is to download the Google Sidewiki toolbar; (it took me between 1 to 2 minutes to do download it and get it started) and play with it a little bit. Check out the Astra Zeneca website and Sidewiki. Read through their statement. Remember that you need to install the Google Sidewiki toolbar in order to see the AZ Sidewiki, otherwise you will just see their website without the Sidewiki column to the left. If your company’s firewall prohibits you from downloading the Google Sidewiki toolbar, you can read the http://www.AstraZeneca.com Sidewiki disclaimer in its totality on the ‘Eye on FDA’ blog. Consider putting together a team consisting of Marketing, IT and Legal to determine the next steps that are most appropriate for your company’s website. And do it quickly so that you can be the first to write on your own Sidewiki. Because once something is posted there, it’s yours to live with for a very long time. And don’t forget to monitor your Sidewiki from time to time. If somebody does post something on your website, you should be aware of it and depending on your company’s SOP and social media guidelines, you may decide that there is action to take (but keep in mind that at the moment, you do not have the ability to edit or delete any of the comments written by others on your website’s Sidewiki).
Stay in touch,
Marketing 4 Health Inc.
Medical Marketing and Social Media Consultant