5 Rules to Successfully Navigate Social Media without Fearing the FDA

Sixty-nine percent of the American public uses at least one social media site for personal or private matters. Knowing that, it’s safe to assume your customers engage with social media, too.  Life sciences, though, is a highly-regulated industry and implementing social media campaigns can be risky. So how can you reach your customers through these emerging digital channels without getting in hot water with the FDA? You can start by following these 5 rules.

1. Knowledge is Power

Don’t assume social media promotion and engagement is impossible for your life sciences company.  Familiarize yourself with the FDA guidance documents. Find out how to play by the FDA rules, here.

2. Create Your Own Guidelines

Once you’re familiar with FDA requirements, build company-specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) to govern your company’s social media use. At Halyard, our SOPs include Social Media Guidelines for our company and Social Media Policies for our employees.

  • Social Media Guidelines: Provides “rules of the road” for anyone acting on behalf of our brand(s) in social media. It covers all portions of our social strategy, from writing and posting content, to monitoring and engaging.
  • Social Media Policies for Employees: We encourage our employees to participate in social media at whatever level they feel comfortable. However, it’s important to remind employees to act in accordance with our company values when engaging. These policies cover topics such as protecting confidential information and what to do—or not do—when discussing our company or products.

Both documents take FDA regulations into account, to ensure our protocols also adhere to their policies.

3. Find a Social Media Champion

While SOPs are imperative to a strong social media strategy, it’s impossible to be successful and compliant without having individuals from your Legal and Regulatory departments as social media champions in your corner. Social media might not be their top priority, so they must be familiar with both FDA guidelines and internal policies, in order to help you uphold them.

If they need additional social media knowledge, bring in outside experts to help. At a recent conference, speakers from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, all said they’re willing to talk to regulatory and legal teams. These big social media vendors recognized the need to educate legal teams about social channels. They mentioned that they’ve implemented special rules to support regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and other life science companies. They were open to ongoing dialogue with life sciences companies about concerns around social media, hoping to continue adapting to and better supporting industry rules and regulations. If your regulatory and legal teams aren’t up to speed on social media, bring in these experts to back you up. Having outside resources educate them (for free) is worth it.

4. Develop a Process All Parties Feel Good About

Whether you’re using paper or leveraging a software system for advertising and promotion review, determine how social media will be reviewed and how it fits into your current process. Social media collateral should ideally be reviewed faster than other marketing materials. Make sure you consider faster turnaround times as you discuss and create the process.

Leveraging a software tool in your reviews will help expedite the review process. If you’re not already using a software tool for your advertising and promotion review, there are some great articles here and here that provide an overview of what factors to consider when purchasing a new advertising and promotion review tool. You can even download a free RFP template tool from the second blog post for when you go down that path.

5. It’s Not Always About Product

As marketers, we often jump to touting the features and benefits of our product in our promotions and advertisements. In the digital space, especially social media, this is not always the best course of action. Focus on creating content around issues your customers face and connect them to the solutions your company offers. Not only does this type of content build trust with your current and potential customers, it may also help you avoid publishing content that may not abide by FDA guidelines.

You can do it

Social media may seem daunting if you’re a marketer in the regulated world of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or diagnostics. However, with some work up-front, including understanding FDA guidelines, creating SOPs, educating and getting buy-in from key parties, establishing a productive review process, and some thoughtful execution, it’s both a doable and extremely valuable tactic.

If you’d like to learn about how Pepper Flow can streamline the review of your advertising and promotion materials, contact us at hello@vodori.com.


Meet our guest author

Katie Hayden is a Social Media Specialist for Halyard Health and has led social media for the company since 2010. From listening and content creation to paid campaigns and new strategies, Katie manages all social media efforts for Halyard globally, supporting a variety of teams across the organization. Most recently, she earned her Advanced Social Media Strategy Certification from the Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University.