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Using Social Media to Extend the Impact of Other Tactics in Patient Recruitment

  • April 19 2016

We are often asked if social media has a real place in patient recruitment. The simple answer is yes. Social media can be an effective part of your recruitment program, from the legal aspects of getting materials approved to the logistics of organic recruitment in a commercialized internet, executing an effective social media program may take some time and effort on your part. However, when done properly, the results can far outweigh the cost of time and money.

As we have said, nothing survives in a vacuum. Your recruitment website cannot function without the support of other tactics and the same is true for organic social media. Whether your website has been active for a week or a year, you must do “something” to create activity and cause the conversation.

With the demise of G+, Facebook and Twitter are the two primary social media channels that can be used to quickly and organically drive visits to your study website. However, many pharma companies do not allow the use of Twitter because it is difficult to control and monitor — every comment exists on the internet “forever,” and nothing can be done to moderate inappropriate comments or otherwise questionable content.

So that leaves Facebook as the primary social media channel.

From a clinical trial standpoint, depending on whether your Facebook page is a static page that does not allow comments (just there for information as an “extension” of your study website), or an active page on which you invite user comments, the tactics you use to drive interaction and website visits will differ slightly. With static pages your goal should be to simply drive visits to the study website through direct linking, which is simply a matter of including a link to the study website in your post. In an active social media environment you can both drive visits to your study website and spur activity and interest directly on your Facebook page.

The following is a recent example of how Facebook and Twitter can extend the success of another tactic.

One of our sites in a large US-only study had arranged an interview on a local television news program about the condition, its impact during the holidays, and the clinical trial. They managed to get the study website link mentioned in the interview and the investigator and study coordinator were both interviewed for the news story.

ICTS posted the link to the news story on the trial’s Twitter (this client allows the use of Twitter) and Facebook pages the same day the story aired. In one week the site received 33 referrals listing News Video as the source and an additional 11 referrals listing Facebook or Twitter. A simple, organic social media posting extended the impact of the principle tactic by 33%.

Social media does not work on its own. It requires time and attention to successfully impact your trial. Social media can serve your study well if you keep a few simple things in mind:

  1. Have something to say that is timely and interesting
  2. Be aggressive within the timeframe to capitalize on existing impact
  3. Link channels together to create circular marketing
  4. Video is the strongest medium for social media content
  5. Mix national posts with local posts to create social interaction