Some of you are waiting for the feds to issue guidelines on what pharma can do in the social media (in my mind, you’re building forts make of couch cushions and blankets from the guest room). 

Allow me to suggest that you start a hobby, because you are goign to have a lot of time on your hands.

We already know what we’re not allowed to talk about, so why are we waiting for what we are allowed to talk about. In my mind, if the feds have delineated what’s off-limits, then everything else is fair game, right? Up until the feds say “no,” they are saying “yes.” QED.

So here’s what you should be doing right now to get into social media.

1) No one cares about your company. They might care about your brand. What they really care about is themselves. They are sick (they care about that). They know that a drug will help (okay, that’s kinda interesting). They have no interest in the company that makes that drug (or worse, they think the developer is a greedy bunch of bastard who would shake them by the ankles to collect their loose change before giving a sick person access to their medication). The only people who are friending your Facebook page are employees who are trying to suck up.

2) Stop channel dithering! Yes, you could spend time developing presences on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Orkut, Bebo, Reddit, StumbleUpon, FourSquare, Plurk, Plaxo, Digg, Vimeo, Ehow and epinions. But don’t. That’s a waste. Pick one, maybe two, and build. If you’re good, people will find you (and you know that Google indexes social media, right?).

3) Talk. Not about you, talk about them. If people want to talk about themselves, that means they aren’t talking about what’s not on your label. They don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing the relative merits of Actos and Amaryl.

Here’s a list of what a diabetes patient will want to talk about instead of your drug: Diet, sugar, cards, glycemic index, aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, test strips, blood sugar spikes and drops, OTC supplements (you know, some of them have positive effects on insulin), new tech in the pipeline, etc. That’s a long list and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

4) Scared of AE Reporting? Build something that allows anyone to report an AE to a place that’s monitored 24/7. Then link to it like freakin’ crazy. Don’t be shy, be a respectful and engaged participant in the process.

5) You’re saying you don’t know the concept of a “third party?” Perhaps someone is asking about an off-label use. You know you can’t say that that’s okay. Maybe you’re uncomfortable pointing to references that talk about it. But we can’t ignore the Google. Since the user asked you, tell them that it’s not what it’s prescribed for, that you’re legally not allowed to discuss off-label uses, but that if you Google a term like “[drug] [use]” you might find that there are people who are doing some interesting research in that fiend trying to determine if its useful.

(This last point will probably bring disagreement. If you care to disagree with this post, kindly talk to me via @digital_pharma. I’m no zealot and can be persuaded to your way of thinking. I’m also a delightful conversationalist!)

So get to it!