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Google Plus for Medical Products

Google Plus for Medical Products

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Published by Dale Cooke
This Regulatory Alert looks at some aspects of Google+ pages that are particularly relevant to companies promoting prescription medical products.
This Regulatory Alert looks at some aspects of Google+ pages that are particularly relevant to companies promoting prescription medical products.

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Published by: Dale Cooke on Nov 17, 2011
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11/17/2011

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Regulatory Alert
 Google+ Pages for Prescription Medicines
November 17, 2011
Analyst: Dale Cooke
 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
On November 7, 2011, Google+ launched Pages. This is the ability of companies to maintain a presence onGoogle+ analogous to brand pages on Facebook. Currently, Google+ is not making any specialaccommodations for medical product companies, but Google representatives say that new features are underdevelopment. Until then, Google+ poses a very similar regulatory risk to Facebook, and just as withFacebook, people exploring Google+ need to understand how it works to ensure their intended efforts arecompliant.The use (and limitations) of circles and hangouts are unique to Google+ and companies seeking to useGoogle+ should appreciate the nuances these features bring and make sure their plan for using Google+ takesthese features into account.
BACKGROUND
Google+ is a social networking site analogous to Facebook. The basic functionality of the two sites is verysimilar, though there are some minor differences, primarily with terminology. For example, rather thanhaving a “Wall” as in Facebook, users have a “Stream” in Google+.One key distinction is that as of today, Google+ has not made any special accommodation for companiesmaking prescription products that want to create a page. Facebook, for example, enables pages that arededicated to product discussions to be whitelisted, which prevents their pages from receiving any commentson posted content. Google+ representatives have said
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that there are plans to enhance pages in ways thatpharmaceutical manufacturers, among others, might find useful for communication in a tightly regulatedindustry. As of today, no such exemptions exist. Launching a brand page on Google+ commits a company toengaging openly in full dialogue with anyone who follows the page, with the option of moderating suchdialogue only after it is posted publicly.Two features distinguished Google+ from Facebook at launch: the use of circles and the ability to createhangouts. Both features are particularly relevant to medical product companies.
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This alert looks at thosefeatures in greater detail and highlights some of the key issues for companies considering a Google+presence.
RELEVANT FACTS
Circles
Circles are the central organizing principle for connections on Google+. Every connection resides in a circle,and Google+ starts users with certain default circles for Friends, Family, and Acquaintances, but users areable to add or change whatever circles they want (co-workers, ex-coworkers, alumni, workout buddies, etc.).All interaction on Google+ is organized around your circles. Posts are always shared with a specified circle(s)
 
 
November 17, 2011 Regulatory Alert: Google+ Pages for Prescription Medicines Page2 of 4 
up to and including the entire group using Google+, and you see posts from others that have been sharedwith a circle you are in.Users always know who is in the circles they create, but they never know what circles someone else has putthem in. So, for example, I might put a friend from college (Joe) in my Close Friends circle and also myCollege circle. Joe, however, might have only put me in his Alumni
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circle. If so, Joe will see everything Ishare with either my Close Friends or College circle, but I will only see the information that Joe posts to hisAlumni circle.The use of circles makes it possible to share information with all and only those people you want to have thatinformation. For example, I might want to discuss my plans to re-visit a popular restaurant while at mycollege reunion with my College circle but don’t necessarily want to share that information with all of myClose Friends.Currently, commenting cannot be disabled, limited, or moderated (except ex post facto) by anyone usingGoogle+, including makers of prescription medical products. Comments on a post can be seen by the groupwith whom the initial post was shared. So, returning to the example above, Joe and everyone in my Collegecircle can see and comment on my post about my plan. Joe also can see any comments made by anyone else Ishared my initial post with, but no one who is not permitted to see the initial post will see it or any of thecomments, unless someone Reshares that post.Resharing a post is when a person reads a post and decides that she would like to share it with additionalpeople.
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Perhaps Joe shares a post with his Alumni circle that I decide would be interesting to people in myClose Friends circle. I can reshare that post, unless Joe has prevented me from doing so.When an initial post is created and shared, it is possible to prevent others from resharing that post by“Locking” the post. Locked posts can still be viewed and commented on by the circle(s) with whom the postwas originally shared, but none of those users are able to reshare that post.Circles make it possible for people to have different conversations with different groups. In the context of prescription medications, the most obvious application is to enable different conversations with doctors fromthe conversations with patients. A brand page wanting to do so could set up two circles (Patients andDoctors) and share different information with each circle. Of course, certain information might be interesting
 
 
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to both audiences, and then the post could be shared with both, or even made Public and shared witheveryone using Google+.
Hangouts
Hangouts are group video chats. Anyone on Google+ with a webcam and microphone can initiate a hangout bysimply clicking a button. Several features distinguish a hangout from a standard video chat.
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First, a hangoutcan have more than two people participating. Up to 10 people (including the person who initiated thehangout) can participate in the video chat session simultaneously. Second, all of the participants are visibleto each other. The current speaker is in the center of the frame, while the video feed of the otherparticipants appear below them. As the person speaking changes, the Hangout automatically changes who isin the center.Individual participants can mute their microphone or video to prevent themselves from being seen or heardby others.The person initiating the hangout invites others by posting a message to her circle(s) announcing that ahangout is taking place or by making the hangout public, which means anyone using Google+ can join. Of course, it’s also possible to schedule a regular hangout in advance, e.g., every Wednesday from 4 – 5 p.m.Importantly, although you can restrict who is initially invited to a hangout by only inviting specific circle(s) toparticipate, you cannot prevent other participants from expanding the invitation beyond that select group.
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 So, for example, if I initiate a hangout and invite my circle of Close Friends and Joe (who is in my circle of Close Friends) joins that hangout, Joe can extend the invitation to the hangout to his Alumni circle, even if there are people in his Alumni circle who are not in my Close Friends circle.The one exception to this is that users can block specific individuals from ever participating in hangout withthem. If you block specific individuals then those specific people will never be able to enter a hangout youare participating in, even if they are invited to the hangout by another participant.Once a company is participating on Google+ it is also possible to participate in hangouts initiated by others if that page is invited to the hangout (or the hangout is public).

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