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Does the paid solicitation of user-generated content diminish the use value of social media for pharma?

Picture 2As I type, most of the attendees of e-Patient Connections will be asleep, apart perhaps from the jet-lagged Europeans, who will be wide awake at 2.30am.

I followed the #epatcon hashtag yesterday rather more assiduously than I had intended to subsequent to my reading about Johnson & Johnson’s solicitation of user-generated content for its YouTube channel for money.

On the basis that this policy was clearly stated on the official Johnson and Johnson blog JNJ BTW over five months ago (‘Calling Mommy Vloggers’, 20 May 2009), you could hardly call this a revelation. I missed this announcement at the time, and it didn’t seem to make waves among attending delegates, although it caught the eye of some remote followers.

So, what’s my problem?

Firstly, I have an innate resistance to the idea that opinions that have been purchased are worth listening to.

Secondly, I dislike the ‘marketing creep’ that activities of this sort are symptomatic of.

Picture 1Thirdly, I fail to see how campaigns such as this serve to advance pharma’s reputation within social media spaces.

Johnson and Johnson requested content from its viewership for money, and content was forthcoming. This is a transactional rather than a relational interaction which at best you might describe as a relational construct. Yet what has been constructed, here? JNJ BTW’s tag line is ‘our people and perspectives’, and everyone who has contributed to this project for cash merits the possessive sense that the phrase connotes.

Is this what social media are for? To take simple opportunities to share, engage, and learn, and monetize them?

This may explain why advertisers and marketers are so keen to help commercial interests find ways of draping existing business practices over new media environments. Outside of the healthcare arena, this diminution of the progressive potential that inheres within social media does not bother me especially. That is not to say that I like it, rather that I am not surprised by it in view of how deeply immured and desensitized we are collectively to the vagaries of the dominant economic arrangements we endure.

However, within the contexts of discussions concerning healthcare focusing upon the patient (and which conversations about healthcare should not focus first and foremost on the patient), I require more rigorous strictures when it comes to defining the terms of the debate.

As I ask in a video accompanying this post, when pharma treats the people it serves in this manner, whose needs are being putting first?

Update: I created a Twtpoll to go along with this post (‘Should pharma solicit user-generated content to publish via its social media presences for cash?’) which you can find here

One thought on “Does the paid solicitation of user-generated content diminish the use value of social media for pharma?

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this controversial issue. I’m kinda in two minds about it. On the one hand, I don’t believe paid for opinions are authentic and on the whole, tend to go against what social media is all about – real people sharing their thoughts and opinions openly and honestly. It seems a small step from paid for opinions to astro turfing.
    On the other hand, I think incentivising people to get involved in a particular brand initiative is a fair marketing practice – akin to the principles of word of mouth marketing.

    I think perhaps it’s all in the details. If a brand is paying people to say nice things about them and does not disclose they are paying them, then that is wrong IMHO. If a brand is paying people to get involved, like J&J, and they are completely transparent about it, then at least people can make up their own mind on the value of those sponsored opinions.

    I’m not sure if I’ve reached a conclusion, but overall I think natural, spontaneous conversations are the most valued by other people, but if a brand is kick starting those conversations with incentives, then OK, but as long as the brand fully discloses – unless of course the incentive is so huge that it distorts the objectivity of the conversation e.g. its hard to post something bad about a brand if they give you a Ferrari:)

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