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Janssen to close groundbreaking psoriasis Facebook page

UK pharma company decides removing rule-breaking posts is stifling legitimate patient discussion

Janssen Psoriasis 360 social media campaign

Nearly 18 months after its innovative Psoriasis 360 initiative was launched Janssen has called time on the campaign's Facebook page.

Announcing its decision the UK pharma company said company personnel had found themselves having to remove an increasing number of posts, with the effect of “stifling worthwhile discussions”.

Janssen told PMLiVE that within the last three months alone a third of all posts to the page had to be removed, the majority because they mentioned prescription-only medicines, but a “significant minority” were disallowed because they included offensive language.

David Keown, senior communications manager at Janssen, told PMLiVE “We are sorry to be closing the Psoriasis 360 Facebook page, and it is not a decision we have taken lightly.

“The page was created to provide a forum for people affected by psoriasis to share experiences and information (as a resource for patients). Increasingly over time, we have found that we are suppressing conversations on the page, rather than facilitating them.

“We are governed by strict rules in terms in communicating with the general public – these rules mean that we are having to terminate some conversations.”

When posts mentioned a specific prescription-only drug by name, or talked about the effectiveness of a particular treatment (or its side effects) Janssen either had to ask for them to be changed or the company had to disallow them.

“The team managing the page had not anticipated the scale of unacceptable comments (from a compliance and regulatory perspective) that users wanted to post on the page,” Keown said.

He said the initiative was set up with “robust processes and contingency plans” to ensure it kept within the ABPI Code of Practice and the company's own internal compliance rules.

“We have spent a great deal of time on the moderation process and recording details of everything we disallow for audit purposes. However, the over-riding reason for coming to this decision is because we have been forced to cut short online discussions that could take place freely in a forum run by a patient organisation.”

The page was the first in pharma to allow 'post-moderated' comments, assessing comments only after they had been posted, something that changes to Facebook's terms and conditions in August since forced all companies to do.

The campaign was launched in October 2010 and one of the driving forces behind it was Janssen's digital strategy and social media manager Alex Butler, who left Janssen last Autumn to set up digital marketing communications agency The Social Moon.

Psoriasis 360 won a number of industry awards, including the Hill & Knowlton Award for Innovation at the 2011 PMEAs, where the judges praised the patient engagement provided by its use of social media channels.

The PMEA judges felt the campaign provided “an innovative approach in terms of use of social media” and they praised the way it gave even 'silent' patients the opportunity to share information and find out more.

In a post to the Psoriasis 360 Facebook page Janssen said “[We are] proud to have provided this forum at a time when they weren't as widespread as they are today. But instead of our original intention of facilitating meaningful conversations, our experience shows we are actually hampering conversations that could take place freely on a page run by a patient organisation.”

Janssen consulted with the Psoriasis Association and is recommending users of its Facebook page migrate to the UK patient group's page before the page is closed in a few weeks' time. The pharma company also used its closure note on Facebook to highlight other patient resources from the Psoriasis Association, Psoriasis Scotland Arthritis Link Volunteers and University of Manchester Skin Research.

The company said it remains committed to continuing with the other parts of the Psoriasis 360 campaign, which include a central website, a YouTube channel, Twitter account and an iPhone app.

“While we are disappointed to be closing this page, we believe we are doing so for the right reasons,” the company said.

But despite the difficulties the Psoriasis 360 Facebook page encountered, Janssen had not ruled out using the social network again in the future.

“Facebook is undoubtedly a powerful vehicle for communicating with stakeholder groups so we would consider it for other future applications, albeit bearing in mind the insights gained from this experience,” Keown said.

21st March 2012

From: Marketing

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