Recently, I have been visiting CafePharma and posting a few messages there to learn what the "other half" -- sales -- thinks of pharmaceutical issues. One of the more popular questions I asked was "Are Sales Reps Necessary?" This was part of research I was doing for this blog and an article that was recently published in Pharma Marketing News (see "Are Sales Reps Necessary?").
For those of you who have never heard of CafePharma, it is an online site for pharmaceutical sales representatives and features bulletin boards where visitors have anonymous "discussions" on a range of topics. I would characterize the majority of these discussions as "Potty-Mouth Gossip Fests." Nevertheless, there can be some nuggets among the nuts.
All my CafePharma posts were deleted, including the entire thread "Are Sales Reps Necessary?". Here's what the CafePharma Administrator said:
"I'm sorry, but your posts are going to be deleted because they violate our board advertising and solicitation policy. Please do not continue to use this board to advertise your blog, or we will delete your account."A bit Stalinesque, wouldn't you say? I was hardly advertising my blog, but doing some research for an article I was writing. I did link to a blog post I made as background, just as many other people do on CafePharma. The only thing is, I did it under my own name and not anonymously.
I expect now to be totally banned from CafePharma after they see this post and a similar one I made over there in response to a thread entitled "Why are threads being deleted???".
It seems that some CafePharma users don't like the delete first, ask questions later policy at CafePharma.
Non-social Online Networking
I am new to Web-based social networking and have just started my own site for pharmaceutical marketers to chat and network. The site is Pharma Markleting Network Forums (PMN Forums) and you can read about in this article (totally free): "An Online Community to Call Our Own"
Another reason why I was interested in CafePharma was to learn more about online social networking best policies. It turns out that CafePharma offers me a good model NOT to follow.
First, of course, is how they treated me and arbitrarily deleted a whole thread I started, whereas they could have just edited out the link to my blog in my original post. Or asked me to do it. I know this is possible with the software, which I also use to run the PMN Forums. That way, the discussion could continue and nothing in it would violate their policies.
Another thing I learned from CafePharma by negative example, is to provide members with a forum that they can use to promote themselves within reason. You need to know something about the people you are talking to online. When I ran the e-mail based PHARMA-MKTINGlistserv, people could include links and other information about themselves in their posts and signature lines. They can now do the same thing on PMN Forums. They can also have a complete public profile that includes a biography, photo, e-mail address, and links to their web sites.
In fact, I encourage PMN Forums users to include links in their posts to blog posts, articles, white papers, etc., as long as it helps in the discussion of the issue at hand and is informative rather than just promotional.
Another point about online social networking is that many people who get to know one another online would also like to meet in person. That is why I host a live networking dinner event every year and it's been very successful. There's no replacing personal, face-to-face contact as any sales rep will tell you (yes, sales reps ARE necessary!).
There's a lot I have to learn about social networking, but unfortunately CafePharma doesn't have much more it can teach me in that regard. I guess I will just be another one of its horde of anonymous visitors and posters who have as much community awareness as [insert your own species of non-social animal here; I am too stressed to Google one myself].