The 4 “untraditional” social media channels
you should be using for patient recruitment
Social media has been used by study organizers and patient recruitment vendors to reach, engage, and enroll global patient populations for years. While traditional social media channels like Facebook and Instagram can still generate high volume quality referrals, these channels are being seen as somewhat channels of the past.
Coupled with evolving data and privacy changes, like Facebook’s removal of ‘Detailed Targeting’ last year, preventing the use of medical terms and events that can be seen as sensitive, study organizers often question which other channels they should be using to reach matching patients.
In this blog, we highlight 4 “untraditional” social media channels we believe represent the “next generation” study organizers should be leveraging as part of their omnichannel patient outreach, and why they’re beneficial for patient recruitment. We also credit the remaining importance of more commonly used social media channels, and how they all play a part in showcasing ROI for study budgets.
Specifically, this blog covers:
The 4 untraditional channels to integrate into your channel mix, including:
The importance of traditional social media channels
Social media patient recruitment as a source for ROI
It is important to keep in mind that not all social channels perform the same in all regions. This is due to the different regulations, trends, user bases, and habits across different countries.
This is why it is important to adapt and evolve with new trends and channels, while staying present on more traditional channels, to create the most impactful and patient focused patient recruitment campaign.
At Clariness, we have 18+ years’ experience in using digital channels to recruit patients in the most efficient way possible. We have digitally recruited patients across 100+ indications on a global scale, combining social media with a multitude of other channels. If you have questions regarding our channel mix, and how we can support your digital recruitment strategies, please contact us.
The 4 untraditional patient recruitment channels
It is understandable that CROs (contract research organization) and pharma sponsors are still learning how to use more effectively these media channels to recruit patients for their studies. However, the channels previously referenced are not your only option, with new channels emerging and gaining popularity to reach individuals interested in participating in clinical research.
The digital control and ability to optimize campaigns can provide cost efficient ways of reaching patients of a diverse and broad audience that otherwise would be harder, and more expensive to reach through more traditional, offline methods.
With 1 billion users worldwide, this platform has gained a lot of popularity, and can be advantageous for trial recruiters to reach patients of all ages, especially young adults.
The following graph retrieved from Statista (2023) displays the TikTok age demographics globally and it shows that over 71.3% of users between the ages of 18-34 use TikTok in 2023.
The platform’s algorithm is best suited for short, high volume, patient exposure, which tends to be useful for rescue studies requiring high volumes of patient referrals with limited time, and promoting underperforming regions and sites that needs to increase screening performance.
Furthermore, TikTok has led to a rise in influencers, which poses a unique opportunity for advertising. There are several influencers that focus their content on creating awareness about illnesses and different conditions. They can sometimes have thousands, even millions of followers, who can help to promote your study.
Partnering with influencers may bring multiple advantages such as gaining access to a deeper understanding of a patient community. Influencers know the preferences of the community they’ve built, and care about their opinions and interests, this is why they have earned their trust.
Clariness has experience in using TikTok to reach patient audiences, and recently partnered with a diabetes TikTok influencer, @finnjast1d to target German users with this condition, with great results:
- We achieved 7,000 video views within the first week of the campaign
- Generated direct referrals within just two weeks
- Saw an increase in organic search traffic and referrals
This shows that long-term cooperations with influencers can build up persistent trust in clinical trials and the service provided, plus the community has a reason to trust the influencer because they take the roles of opinion leaders, friends, and role models.
Here you can find the video of the experience of @finnjast1d with our friendly patient portal ClinLife®.
Thumbnail of video of influencer @finnjast1d, October 2022
This content driven platform, while being founded in 2005, has not commonly been used to recruit patients. With around 2.6 billion monthly active users, it offers a wide audience reach and can become a powerful tool to communicate with viewers and provide general or specific information about upcoming studies.
Having an introductory or short video where you explain briefly what you do, the benefits of participating in clinical trials, or talking about a specific study or indication, can become a powerful tool to attract people and create awareness about the advantages of participating. Video content has grown at an exponential rate over the last 2 decades and it is still continuously increasing, with 80% of all internet traffic being internet video traffic. So, implementing the video tool for patient recruitment brings engagement, improves understanding of procedures and broadens the reach of the target audience.
In addition, video offers visual appeal, SEO optimization, personalized storytelling, and the ability to more visually communicate otherwise technical, word-heavy study requirements and procedures. YouTube also provides an impactful way of harnessing our heavy dependence on mobile phones; being able to create content easily accessible whilst on the move enables us to reach patients more readily as they go about their daily routine.
By using YouTube videos in your recruitment strategy, you can increase the visibility of your study and reach potential participants in a more engaging and effective way.
This music streaming platform can offer opportunities for patient recruitment. Some may consider creating a podcast and inviting professionals or even patients over for interviews or discussions to mention, for instance, the advantages of participating in different studies and to demystify the mistrust of clinical trials. In addition to creating your own content, you can advertise on health podcasts, and even partner with artists who are active in health and wellness advocacy can be beneficial.
Lastly, the audio advertising options that this platform offers can be very beneficial for your patient recruitment efforts. It can be effective when targeting a specific age, gender and location. This can be particularly helpful when reaching people that are within a certain radius of a nearby site offering studies.
Blogs and social forums
A blog can have many interesting and insightful topics that can encourage people to participate in trials. Additionally, by creating a blog, you can position yourself as a thought leader in your field, which can help to build trust and credibility with potential participants. Blogs also offer the opportunity to feature participant testimonials, which can help humanize your study and demonstrate its impact on real people. This can increase interest and engagement among potential participants.
Additionally, social forums can bring access to a large and diverse audience of potential patients. They can help connect researchers with patients who may be interested in participating in clinical trials or other studies.
Furthermore, they can build trust around patients by providing them with information about the study, answering their questions, and addressing their concerns. Forums can also provide a space for patients to discuss their experiences and share information with each other, which can drive patient interest. These can help to create a sense of community and support among potential participants, which can increase their willingness to participate.
Finally, blogs and forums are cost-effective; they require fewer resources than some other recruitment methods, which helps to reduce the overall cost of recruitment while still reaching a large and diverse audience.
Patients interestingly look to this channel as a source of clinical trial information.
Clariness surveyed more than 6,000 patients across 9 countries and found that blogs and forums are considered to be a highly trusted source of information.
In the graph below, we can see the most trusted sources for patients to find medical information:
The importance of traditional social media channels
According to Statista, there are 5.16 billion internet users in 2023 worldwide, this represents 64.4% of the global population and 59.4% are social media users.
This means that if you take into account social media, you have access to over half the world’s population.
Despite the growth and potential that social media has, only about 11% of clinical trials were using this source to recruit a few years ago, and a review showed that 76.1% of randomized clinical trials had to stop due to poor recruitment results. This means that trials need to explore new options and tactics to keep improving recruiting efforts as these channels play a major role in communication and strong engagement.
Social media can also help to reach patients who may not be actively seeking clinical trial opportunities, but who might be interested in participating if they knew about them.
As an example, we held a diversity survey in 9 countries with roughly 6,000 participants which had the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of several key factors related to potential clinical trial participants. Across all countries, the top barriers to participation in clinical trials included fear of side effects and lack of knowledge about the trial and treatment.
Another advantage of traditional social media channels is their ability to facilitate engagement and communication with potential patients as people are familiar with how they work. Through social media, researchers can share information about the study, answer questions, and address concerns that potential participants may have. This can help to build trust and credibility with patients, and their social connections who play a big part in the participation decision journey, which ultimately helps both patient recruitment and study retention.
Nevertheless, everything is about improving the omnichannel patient recruitment and migrating channels as the patient population does.
Leveraging existing popular social media channels
The table below shows the percentage of people that use different social media platforms across various regions. Facebook is by far the most used social media channel in all of them. Nevertheless, to perceive tangible ROI in the form of more qualified online referrals, there needs to be real expertise and constant management to achieve the targets and goals.
Using existing popular social media channels can be an effective way to recruit patients for clinical trials or other healthcare-related research studies.
By understanding your target audience, creating engaging content, and using the right channels, you can increase the reach and impact of your recruitment studies.
Social media patient recruitment as a source for ROI
No one denies how challenging recruiting for clinical trials can be. Patient recruitment can pose the biggest cause of delays in trials. Studies have shown that 76% of trials have trouble with enrollment plans and deadlines leading to the loss of a great deal of revenue per day.
Social media is only one part of our outreach when reaching and enrolling participants in clinical trials. But it is important to keep in mind that factors like follow-up of patient and overall processes, appropriate screening, correct data processing, asking for feedback, among others, are equally as important to ensure a successful recruitment process.
At Clariness, we have been recruiting patients for many different therapeutic areas for many years, spanning more than 100 indications, using various social media tools and other digital channels. This way, we know what strategies work best when creating campaigns, to increase referrals and randomizations and have the best possible outcome.
These new channels can expand the reach of patients in different regions and ages, but it can also be helpful to investigate traditional digital channels and where possible, combine channels to maximize reach, and recall, to get better recruitment outcomes. At Clariness, we combine social media outreach with 40+ other digital channels, to create an omnichannel presence.
You can reach your enrollment target by teaming up with partners like Clariness with 18+ years of experience in supporting 1,200+ international studies and provide real-time reporting on channel performance to ensure your media budget has the best recruitment ROI.
If you are interested in learning more about how we can improve your patient recruitment, don’t hesitate to contact us here. To learn more about our success with past clinical trials, you can access our case studies here.
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