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GSK & Pharma's Foray Into The Blogosphere

GlaxoSmithKline
Source: Ian Wilson
GlaxoSmithKline

I've got new competition. Sort of.

GlaxoSmithKline sent me an email this morning calling my attention to its new external blog, "American Health: More Than Medicine." A pretty long name for a blog, one that screams that it went through the corporate approval wringer, but at least GSK is putting itself out there.

The entries are written by a "Michael F" whose byline up until today said he was with "GSK Communications." I'm assuming the earlier stuff was for internal consumption because today's inaugural entry for the new external blog identifies him as being with "GSK Social Media."

Of course, the hottest thing in social media right now is Twitter. But it doesn't look like GSK has gone there yet. There is a registered user with the handle "glaxosmithkline." Whoever is behind it hasn't posted a single update, but somehow they've attracted 70 followers. Other pharmas, though, including Roche, Novartis,AstraZenecaandJohnson & Johnsonare tweeters.

Most of the tweets (messages) are links to press releases and other official corporate communications. There's little, if any, freestyling by the drug company tweeters. I'm almost certain the corporate lawyers keep close tabs on what can and can't get put on social media. The government regulatory watchdogs are also beginning to get hip to pharma's foray into social media in an attempt to make sure the companies mind their marketing p's and q's.

And that's why I think it's important to point out that GSK says the blog won't be a drug-pushing vehicle. Michael F writes, "More Than Medicine is expressly uninterested in promoting GSK brands. As stated in our credo, our intent is to express a point of view and create a dialogue on health and healthcare issues you can't find anywhere else - not to serve as another product marketing vehicle." So, there's no link on the blog homepage to a coupon for the diet drug Alli.

But I'm not sure you can't find it anywhere else. I suspect it's only a matter of time before most, if not all, of the big pharmas launch external blogs. JNJ's tweeter also writes a blog, but it doesn't have the same feel as GSK's.

I'd also like to see some of the execs in the blogosphere. Sure, their stuff would get lawyered and might read like a formal newspaper op-ed piece, but as has been my experience with this blog, eventually, hopefully they'd start to let some of their personalities show.

Big pharma, by its own admission, has a major image problem. What better way to try to put a face on these monolithic corporations than by leveraging the social media craze to their advantage?

What's more, it would cost 'em next to nuthin'.

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This Update: So, it turns out GSK is on Twitterafter all. But apparently, it's tough to find. Michael Fleming, the company's Senior Director of Social Media emailed, "For some reason we were having trouble coming up on Twitter searches earlier, but that should be getting fixed." And he added that, indeed, there are plans to have various GSK execs write blog entries and to make room for "the occasional visiting non-company blogger." I won't be one of them.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman