Government Agencies and Social Media: It’s Complicated

The relationship status of regulatory agencies and social media truly is complicated. The rise of instant, widespread communication was fascinating when it was first discovered. One internal memo I reviewed talked about how its one blog might be joined by one or two other agency blogs within a year. Among all regulatory agencies the story was the same: social media sure took communications professionals by a storm.

I decided for my paper to look specifically at social media policy and use of social media channels by a few regulatory agencies. It seemed exciting to look at an organization that does not directly market products, and explore both US and agencies abroad. Regulators such as the FDA, EPA, and OSHA exist to support communities and enforce compliance by companies with established standards. The same is true for those in Europe: the EMA, ECHA, and EU-OSHA. Part of this support includes guidelines for marketing products, including marketing done on social media.

My favorite discovery through this paper was finding out that the FDA’s response to regulating social media marketing was heavily criticized. Individuals did not think the agency did enough to provide a clear understanding of what was and was not considered acceptable. The concern was that social media would only communicate the benefits and not the potential risks or side effects of a particular product. Another interesting fact that arose was that the research trend in studying regulatory social media wants to harness social media communication to achieve regulatory goals, including a better response to reported negative drug reactions. Researchers wondered whether these reports might appear on social networks rather than the portion of the agency website dedicated to patient or consumer reporting.

When I chose this topic, I did not consider that some of these agencies continue to have a spotlight on them due to the latest news on Coronavirus vaccines. In my research, I encountered news about the EMA scheduling their review of the safety and efficacy data, which would occur more than a week after the FDA’s decision to grant an Emergency Use Authorization. Even though these agencies are in the news, it is curious that the most popular posts do not come from the agencies themselves. I thought about how a tweet from an individual can be posted without much thought, but the responsibility and reputation of the government is present in any form of agency communication.

Overall, I concluded that regulatory communications professionals can expect to have a lot more to consider as communication continues to change forms and connect us in new ways. Workers in industries that rely on regulatory updates are both pleased and challenged by social media, but can learn a lot from each other moving forward.

Posted on December 18, 2020, in Social Media, Workplace and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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