Sideswiped by Sidewiki

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Reading through posts to the Web 2.0 Marketing Group I belong to on LinkedIn recently, a question came up about the implications of Google’s Sidewiki for pharmaceutical/medical device brands. In an industry as heavily regulated as pharma, I can understand just how nervous this is going to make the lawyers (once it’s on their radar).

While dipping its toes tentatively into the social media waters more and more, by and large the industry sees all sorts of beasts and monsters lurking in it’s uncharted depths. Rightly so — implying acceptance of off-label uses of drugs or medical devices could mean legal headaches and fines the size of a Kraken.

As a social media user, I like the concept of Sidewiki and see significant value it can add to web sites. At the same time, with the current toolset (none) available to companies/brands/site owners, this is incredibly scary — anybody with a mean-spirited agenda can post a comment that pops right out next to any page on your web site. This is not some dark corner of Cafe Pharma message boards or a third-party rating site. For the majority of people who don’t know any better, it looks like it’s part of your site, endorsed by you.

Here’s my comment (and recommendation) about the situation posted to the Web 2.0 Marketing Group:

"Working in pharma/healthcare I know what you mean about regulatory concerns. I’m sure many of my clients will be nervous about this once it’s on their radar. Until (and if) Google gives some measure of control or comment moderation to the site owners, my suggestion is for companies to pre-emptively post the first Sidewiki entry to their sites making clear their policies about off-label use and perhaps including links to the appropriate site terms of use policy. As the site owner, a comment can be set to always appear at the top of the listings."

Although I posted regarding pharma regulatory concerns specifically, there’s no reason why any company in any industry can’t be the first to set some expectations or policy outlines for those who view Sidewiki comments on their site. It might not be as good as comment moderation, but for those in highly regulated industries it might put a little more control back in the company’s hands (and make the lawyers less nervous!)

For more about this topic as it relates to the pharma industry, John Mack has posted quite a bit on his Pharma Marketing Blog about it. And a related post  by Magnus Nillson "Google Sidewiki-Power to the People" provides a little more background about Sidewiki.

Magnus Nillson.
"Google Sidewiki-Power to the People." Sep 25, 2009.
John Mack.
"3rd Party Dissemination of Altered Rx Drug Information on Social Media Sites. Survey says.."
John Mack.
"Google’s Wacky Wiki is Whack! Pharma Should Demand Ability to Block It!"
Public Domain Image
"Colossal octopus" by Pierre Denys de Montfort. 1810. Via Wikimedia Commons.

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