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Significant step in the Sidewiki drama

Pharma companies are taking advantage of new functionality from Google to stamp their corporate ownership on Sidewiki

A hand with the palm pointing to the left blocking the word 'wiki'Pharma companies are taking advantage of new functionality from Google that allows their corporate ownership to be stamped on Sidewiki.

As explained in November by Neil Crump in his article, On your virtual doorstep, a new piece of software from Google has opened a can of virtual worms for the pharmaceutical industry.

Sidewiki is a piece of software that allows anyone (providing they have a Google account and the latest Google toolbar) to leave comments on any page of any website regardless of whether or not the website's owner wishes to participate. As you would expect, this has resulted in a nervous reaction from corporations worldwide as they face their websites becoming victim to unmoderated 'grafitti'.

Until very recently, website owners had no control over what or how Sidewiki displayed content alongside their websites. However, although there is still no approved way to prevent Sidewiki from displaying comments, Google has added the option for website owners to claim the top spot with a Sidewiki entry that always remains above any other comments.

Pharmaceutical companies have been quick to embrace this enhancement. AstraZeneca has posted a corporate message clearly distancing the company from any responsibility for monitoring or responding to comments on Sidewiki, and – here's the clever bit – making the posting long enough to fill the entire first page of comments.

 

AstaZeneca's homepage displaying a Sidiwiki entry

AstraZeneca's corporate Sidewiki fills the first page of comments

 

Google has also released an application that collates all Sidewiki comments posted on a particular website. This is a welcome release for web managers, who for the first time since the launch of the Sidewiki at the end of September, will be able to track comments on their sites. It will be interesting to see the impact of this new development on the pharmaceutical industry, now that they will no longer be able to claim a lack of awareness of user postings.

It would seem then that the message for pharma is to develop both a pre-emptive and reactive strategy (if they don't already have one). Companies would also be wise to use a long corporate message to distance themselves from comments left on Sidewiki and to provide details of preferred communication channels, while also filling the whole of the space on the first page.

Pharmaceutical companies could plan for inevitable attacks on contentious products or issues by storing pre-approved responses that can be posted quickly to force negative comments down the page.

Sidewiki comments can only be posted, and viewed, by users who have Google's latest toolbar installed. If you have Internet Explorer 6 (or above) or Firefox 2 (or later), you can download the Google Toolbar with Sidewiki.

 

This video from Google explains the principles behind the contentious software: 

11th December 2009

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