New Diabetes Blog Launched by sanofi-aventis U.S.

While the pharmaceutical industry has increasingly jumped into Twitter (with about 66 feeds or so from 28 companies), some of which are feeds that are disease-specific, and an increasing willingness to explore Facebook, when it comes to the medium of blogging, pharma has been far less active and less successful.  However, that has not stopped sanofi-aventis U.S. from taking the plunge and in a slightly different direction from that established so far.

Other brave souls currently in the blogosphere include Johnson & Johnson’s JNJBTW, AstraZeneca’s AZ Health Connections, GSK’s More Than Medicine, and most recently, Lilly’s LillyPad.   These serve as platforms for companies to speak within the social media sphere more immediately than can be done from a Website.  But sanofi-aventis U.S. is doing something different in launching a blog that, like many twitter feeds, is condition-specific.  The company has launched “Discuss Diabetes” apparently to do just that – provide a forum where diabetes can be discussed.

Of course, one of the obstacles for any highly regulated industry with social media is the concern of possible repercussions from the two-way conversational nature of social media. This has led many companies to turn off commentary from their media such as a YouTube channel or Facebook.  However, when removing the commentary function from a Facebook page, the page ceases really to be social media and just becomes – well – a Website – which you already have.

The difference in the sanofi-aventis U.S. effort is not just the fact that the subject matter is condition-specific, but also that the stated plan is to open the blog up as a forum by inviting guest blogs.  In the first posting – A Letter to the Diabetes Community –  put up by  Laura Kolodjeski, the Community Manager for sanofi-aventis U.S. diabetes, it is stated that there is a specific intent to engage with the diabetes community.  She states that she took the position because she sees “a real opportunity for sanofi-aventis U.S. to use social media to connect with people who are living with diabetes every day. There is a lot for us to learn from you, and my goal is to spend each day listening and contributing valuable content when appropriate.”

The appropriate thing, is of course, the rub.  In the About Us portion of the blog site, there are conditions outlined for terms of use.

  1. All comments must be previewed before posting. Please don’t let this deter you from commenting, but understand there is a review process that may take hours, or even days. While some messages may not be posted, we are still listening and encourage you to continue sharing.
  2. If you comment about an individual health issue or a particular issue with one of our products, we may need to contact you directly. Don’t let this deter you from commenting, but you may receive an email and possibly a follow up phone call.
  3. In posts where we discuss our products, we will also provide important information for that product. It is valuable information you need to know about our products, and we encourage you to read it carefully.

These are solid, though I would encourage the company not to wait more than 24 hours to screen commentary.  The terms demonstrate a willingness to face head on the potential for a reporting of an adverse event and state an apparent intent to provide risk information when discussing products to stay within regulatory parameters.

Certainly it is true that people with specific conditions like to find others with that condition and to find various fora where they can talk and find information.  Certainly some of the most watched YouTube channels have involved patients telling their own story with a disease or condition and as sanofi-aventis U.S. states that they want to open this up to guest bloggers, with “a broad range of experiences, thoughts, and perspective on the challenges encountered by those living with diabetes” it could be a formula for success, though it will also be an editorial challenge.

Commendably, the blog – like JNJBTW and AZ’s Health Connections, has its own domain, rather than reside on the corporate site.  There are no resources or blog roll, but that perhaps will develop in time, and there are tabs reserved for general and specific types of information that are yet unpopulated.

No one can say at this point if the blog will take – and others by companies have failed, but it is a commendable attempt to forge on by engaging in a medium to which patients are flocking even while the regulation of that communication remains in limbo.  Good luck Laura, and welcome to the blogosphere!

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