3 Easy Steps: Optimize Patient Recruitment Through Social Media

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3 Easy Steps: Optimize Patient Recruitment Through Social Media

Clinical trials increasingly rely on social media to support patient recruitment and marketing efforts, but is this digital trend being used to its fullest advantage?

Over the past 10 years or so, social media has completely transformed the marketing world and quickly became applicable to nearly every industry, including clinical research. Users of all demographics are constantly connected to their online networks and regularly turn to social media for information, even if just out of habit. 74% of internet users engage on social media consistently, and 80% of those users are specifically looking for information about their health. This provides clinical research marketers with a large and attentive population to target.

optimize patient recruitment through social media

There are many social media platforms available to work with, so it is important to utilize each platform optimally to recruit as many qualified patients as possible. Following these three easy steps, you will be well positioned to implement a successful social media campaign!

1. Know Your Audience

The first step in developing any social media campaign is to identify the target audience. For example, are you targeting the patients themselves, or their caregivers? Is a certain demographic more likely to have the indication you are enrolling for? Are potential patients more likely to be night owls or early birds? All of these factors determine how you will set up your campaign, including the interests and keywords you should utilize.

Identifying your audience will also help determine what platform to run your ads on. For example, if you are recruiting for a rare disease, your best option would likely be to run ads on Google where the keywords and search criteria are more specific and targeted. It is best to put yourself in the patient’s shoes and determine what exactly the individual would be searching for if they were seeking treatment or more information about the disease.

optimize patient recruitment through social media

If you are recruiting for a more common indication such as depression, Facebook may be your best bet because the interests and support groups/organizations available are more broad and common. Once you determine what platform to run your ads on you can make adjustments to ensure that you are actually reaching your intended audience. For example, if you are running an insomnia study you would likely schedule your ads to run at night to maximize your budget. Small adjustments such as this can make all the difference and in turn, lead to more quality conversions.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

The beginning of any social media campaign should be marked by setting realistic expectations that will help you develop a successful campaign. One of the most common mistakes clinical trial marketers make in patient recruitment is over-promising to clients and ultimately, under-delivering. Common factors that come into play are the recruitment budget and the nature of the indication itself. If you have a small budget and are expected to recruit a large pool of patients, you will most likely fall short of your overall recruitment goal. This also applies to the medical indication. If you are recruiting for a rare disease and have promised an unrealistic number of patients, you will likely find yourself in a challenging situation.

Begin by setting a conservative and realistic goal based on past data and familiarity with the indication, if applicable. If you find yourself in a situation with a small budget and a rare or difficult indication, communication is key. Be sure to voice any concerns or obstacles with the client from the initial stages, which will be crucial in managing expectations. Not only will this help build a relationship with the client, but it will also help build trust as they will continue to look to you as the marketing expert. Remember, a successful campaign can result in a happy, and possibly, repeat client!

optimize patient recruitment through social media

3. Take Advantage of Forecasting Tools

If you are wondering how certain keywords or phrases will perform in your online ad campaigns, or are looking for suggestions as to what interests should be targeted, tools are available to help you. Facebook and Google, for example, make it easy by hosting features within their platforms that are designed to forecast how a campaign may perform based on certain factors such as budget, geographic location, and keywords used. By researching potential reach and search volume for specific keywords, you can predict the success of your campaigns and adjust specific factors as needed before you launch!


The world of social media is constantly evolving and in a short amount of time it has become a crucial part of any marketing strategy. By having a better understanding of who you are trying to target, setting realistic expectations with the client and taking advantage of various forecasting tools within the advertising platforms, social media can play a critical role in your patient recruitment campaigns. With new changes being introduced each week, one thing is for sure – social media is not going anywhere!


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Joanna Nemeskal

Post by Joanna Nemeskal -

As a member of the Engage marketing team, Joanna assists sponsors and sites in their patient recruitment efforts by implementing various marketing strategies and campaigns such as traditional media and online advertising. “The most rewarding part of my job is being able to spread awareness for clinical trials, which ultimately improves the lives of patients and advances the future of medicine!”

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