You’re a pharma brand sitting in between your two biggest competitors. Look to your left. Now look to your right. If one of their websites is compliant when shared socially, then yours is not.

I know what you’re thinking … how does he know this? And why am I sitting next to my competitors? Let me cover the first question, as what we discovered will both shock you and have you make a beeline to your website team.

It has to do with a type of website meta tag called OpenGraph tags (more detail on that below). If your pharma brand website does not make use of OpenGraph tags, you could have an issue with the way your website is shared socially.

I’ve noticed this lack of use of OpenGraph tags in the pharma industry for years now, but now Syneos Health has quantified it, and the results are scary. We analyzed the websites of the top-100-selling prescription drugs of 2017 for their use of OpenGraph tags and found:

  • 66% of the top-100 drug websites do not use OpenGraph tags
  • 54% of the top-100 drug websites reveal the drug’s indication when shared socially
  • 18% of the top-100 drug websites make a claim about the drug when shared socially

Now let’s cover some background on OpenGraph and meta tags. When you share a website URL on Facebook, you probably notice that your post has a lot more information in it than what you typed in the little box, right? You see an image, a headline, and a description, but you didn’t type any of that other stuff. So how did it get there? The answer is meta tags.

Meta tags are part of that mumbo jumbo in your website’s source code that you let your web development team worry about. It produces mainly hidden information to tell your browser what the page is called, tells Google what your website is about, and, importantly, it tells the social networks what the social post should look like when you share your website. When you add a URL to your Facebook post, Facebook grabs those meta tags from the website to populate those other enhanced elements of your post.

Back in 2010, Facebook created a new set of meta tags called OpenGraph tags (or “og tags”) as a means of integrating more rich media objects into Facebook posts. Since then, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others have also made use of OpenGraph tags, although Twitter has its own set of Twitter Card tags (for another day).

So what does this mean to me? I’m glad you asked. On your brand website, you have your drug’s logo, what it’s indicated for, and a claim. That’s okay, because at the bottom of your web page, you present fair balance in the form of an ISI. However, when your page is shared to Facebook, the logo, indication, and claim are passed along into the post, but the fair balance statement is not! So now, your patients, doctors, and visitors are sharing your website on Facebook, making a claim about your drug but with no fair balance.

Proper use of OpenGraph tags ensure that what is shared socially from your website is only the information you want to share and not the information you don’t want to share. Without OpenGraph tags, Facebook is just going to grab the information that is available. For example, if you don’t have an OpenGraph image tag (og:image), Facebook is just going to grab the first image it finds on your page, which could have a claim in it – no good. This often doesn’t get flagged in MLR review, since typically only the website itself is reviewed and not the social shares of that website.

There are simple fixes for this, which can be made to your website. If you’d like to find out if your brand’s website is among those problematic ones we uncovered, feel free to contact me to discuss.

About the Author:

Matthew Snodgrass is a lead in Digital & Social Strategy at Syneos Health in New York. He has more than twenty years of experience in digital marketing with a concentration in health and pharmaceuticals. Matt helps bring digital marketing campaigns to life while shepherding them through MLR review teams with numerous pharmaceutical companies. He has also helped to develop policy and training for employees and brand communicators in the area of social media.