Why social media is critical to any digital patient recruitment strategy

Digital patient recruitment is a necessity in an era when over 60% of the world’s population is online. The number as well as the diversity of digital users (i.e. age, location, socio-economic background, but also indications) has grown along with ever new social media platforms.

This in turn has provided patient recruitment specialists with more data from different sources to continuously evaluate the performance of digital outreach efforts and thereby increase the gain of referrals and randomizations.

At Clariness, we have been leveraging digital channels to recruit across all major therapeutic areas around the globe, and found that social media is consistently providing a high number of referrals and randomizations, in some cases out performing all other digital channels.

In this blog, we highlight why social media patient recruitment should be a core channel used in digital patient recruitment, including:

1. The rising number of digital patients and health information searches
2. Using data to drive channel performance
3. The proven ROI of social media patient recruitment

1. The rising number of digital patients and health information searches

At the time of writing this blog, the global number of social media users has risen by almost 10% in the last 12 months to 4.55 billion users, equating to around 1 million new users every day.

In addition to this growing number of digital users, the internet is becoming a more important source for health information. In fact, 83% of adult internet users search for health information online.

Increasing health information searches

With over half the world’s population on social media, and 8 in 10 people searching for health information, it creates a huge audience that cannot be ignored by organizers of clinical trials and – with the right patient recruitment partner with data-driven knowledge – offers an opportunity to create highly customized and targeted strategies.

In the last three years, indication specific search terms have grown exponentially, for example:

Given these figures, it is no wonder that doctors and scientists have begun to refer to Google as ”Doctor Google”.

Source: https://trends.google.com/

The data is there to be leveraged by recruitment strategists

This data can be segmented by a number of demographics, as can the digital patient recruitment strategies that are reaching out to the patients searching for them. While this rise in users and usage is global, it’s important to note that different channels perform differently depending on region, indication, and constantly changing regulation. For this reason, it’s important to partner with a specialist with a long-standing history in using social media to recruit patients, like Clariness.

2. Using data to drive channel performance

Clariness has been digitally recruiting patients for 15+ years. Our diverse team of digital and medical experts analyze the patient population, through research, patient surveys, data analysis, and more to continuously optimize our creative and channel selection processes to offer the best results.

As mentioned, there are multiple factors that influence social media patient recruitment performance, and which channels you should choose, including:

In a recent atopic dermatitis campaign, we used the social media channels that had performed well in the past to refer patients, including Facebook, Google search, Google display, affiliate sites, eblasts, and more. Facebook ads in this instance proved to be more effective in driving the majority of patients with atopic dermatitis to our study landing page (Figure 1).
The true number of visits has been removed for commercial sensitivity, however it’s clear to see that Facebook ads stood out as our highest performing digital channel, generating 3x more than our second highest performing channel, Google Display.

Figure 1: Bar graph shows percentage of landing page visits by channel

Our digital advertising and media monitoring teams at Clariness continuously review the performance data of campaigns and focus budget on the channels and media that performs best. The ability to leverage real-time performance data in digital patient recruitment, and optimize over time, is why digital and social media strategies can produce such overwhelming results.

3. The proven Return On Investment (ROI) of social media patient recruitment

Digital advertising budgets are accountable

Advertising budgets can easily become the highest cost of any patient recruitment campaign, which is why it’s essential to continuously monitor performance to ensure ROI. At Clariness, we have a long-standing history of recruiting patients through social media across all major therapeutic areas, allowing us to know when and how to adapt digital campaigns to drive higher patient referrals and randomizations. Without this knowledge, it’s difficult to know when to take action, which can dramatically impact the performance of digital recruitment campaigns.

As with all our digital campaigns, we monitor the cost efficiency of every digital channel we use on a weekly or even daily basis. In the aforementioned atopic dermatitis patient recruitment campaign, we saw that Facebook Ads not only drove the highest volume of patients, but was the most cost effective channel (Figure 2). More so, it was the channel that relatively also provided the highest number of successful randomizations. Reaching people is one thing, finding people that qualify for your study and enroll is another.

Figure 2: Cost per study registration by channel

Driving ROI through traffic volume

That’s not to say that the cost of eblasts are high, but the sheer volume driven by Facebook Ads, made the cost per registration much lower than that of all other channels used within this specific campaign.

Social media here, in this instance, drove the highest amount of volume, as seen in Figure 3 below, and the lowest cost per registration, as seen in Figure 2 above. This demonstrates the focus of ROI which Clariness drives throughout the lifetime of our studies, to over deliver patients, and close campaigns ahead of schedule.

Future of social media patient recruitment

You may now be thinking that Facebook is the secret sauce to digital patient recruitment, and in some cases, with the right knowledge and strategy, like our recent atopic dermatitis campaign, it can be. Facebook is one our most valuable advertising channels to find new patients, both in reach and value, which has helped many patients find new treatments which have improved their lives.

Social media targeting can raise concerns regarding data privacy, and as a German-company, we strongly believe and adhere with national and international data security and data protection guidelines in the use of targeting, obtaining and retaining patient data through social media. It is important that when choosing a patient recruitment partner, that you

It’s also important to note that Faceboook isn’t the standout, most valuable social media channel for patient recruitment across all indications, regions and patient populations. To ensure effective patient recruitment via social media, a medical knowledge of the patient ppopulation and a technical knowledge of each social media channel is required.

Furthermore, social media isn’t the only effective digital channel for patient recruitment. In a recent Alzheimer’s disease campaign, affiliate marketing proved to be a very successful digital channel, particularly on sites which offered mentally stimulating content and games, as the campaign was targeted more on the behavior of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The future of social media patient recruitment is one that is in constant flux, as social media channels face continuous changes in user volumes and behavioral data, as a result of changing popularity, technical capabilities, data regulations, aging populations and more.

Data-driven campaigns succeed more often

Data is the true key to successful digital patient recruitment, and therefore it’s recommended to partner with a patient recruitment specialist with a long-standing history in digital recruitment.

Clariness for example has digital performance data across 39 indications and digitally driving over 1.5 million landing page visits, from 2021 alone. Now consider the level of optimization that can be driven from this level of data across 16 years, and more than 1,000 global studies.

To find out more about how we target and drive patient enrollment through social media and other digital channels, contact us here.

Want to know how we can support your patient recruitment?

Whether you’re planning, or actively recruiting, we can support your trials to ensure you meet your enrollment targets. Simply get in touch with one of our experts, and we will review your study’s requirements, and develop a strategy to enroll more patients.