Kimberly Blozie Kimberly Blozie Blogger

5 steps to clinical trial recruitment using social media and the internet

Whether you call it e-patient recruitment, on-line clinical trial recruitment or a clinical trial social media recruitment campaign, these 5 steps should help you craft a successful one. But before I get into the steps, “time” is an important thing to keep in mind. I know we are all speed spoiled when it comes to the internet, but even online marketing, research and outreach are based on real, actual relationships with live human beings and these take time to nurture, track and maximize.   As someone who has spent a decade in clinical research, and nearly 3 years in online patient recruitment, take it from me, social media campaigns for clinical trials take time to build.  We are not talking decades here, just a few months.  Let this be a warning more than anything else, I certainly don’t want to deter anyone from conducting social media clinical trials recruitment campaigns.

Also, of importance, these 5 steps are founded on the premise that you are using some kind of online mechanism to inform potential patients about a trial and then an online form for capturing their contact information if they are interested in participating in the trial you are advertising/marketing.  These steps are also founded upon good old fashioned, organic Google searching — aka potential patients searching for trials using Google.  I have not analyzed this with Bing, Yahoo or other search engines.

Ok, now that that is out of the way let’s push on to the 5 steps.

1 – Earn respect from social moguls

Social moguls are people (professionals, patients or simply the passionate) who have a relatively high number of followers, friends or a large audience in general.  There are no set numbers for this.  In the multiple myeloma community for example, a few hundred is pretty good.  In the breast cancer community, thousands of friends/follower etc are more common. Research social moguls on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and authors of top, disease specific blogs and articles. Creators of patient advocacy groups are also great social moguls.

Earning respect from these social moguls usually comes (as it often does in the off-line world) through acknowledgment and flattery. Mention a mogul in a “top 10 or best of the blogs” article, or in a tweet requesting people follow this esteemed voice you admire.  Comment on their blog or FB page about your admiration and this will establish a relationship.  Retweet them, DM them, message them, keep a real relationship alive.  Once this happens, you should find that they retweet your tweets, link to your blogs and mention your work as well. Relationships in the on-line world grow from of a similar give and take as they do in the off-line world.

Note: Celebrities are too high in the sky and unless you too are a celebrity (or have connections to them), they will not respond to you no matter how much praise you give em.

OK, so great, after some research, attention getting, flattery and time, you have earned the respect of some social moguls for a specific disease area, now what?

Reach and links my friend, reach and links.

  • Social moguls have reach…highly targeted reach that is.  If they retweet or mention a clinical trial landing page or blog of yours, this translates into excellent, highly targeted advertising.
  • They will often blog about your work and place a link on their site.  Links backs to your clinical trial landing page are highly regarded in Google and will get your blog/landing page higher in the Google ranks.

2 -Key words

You need to see what people are looking for in Google.  We have found that “disease + clinical trial + City, State” works well.  Others search for “disease + research + City, State” and put this exact string of key words in your blog/article/landing page title.  But check the Google key word tool for the disease and treatment key words to see what is netting the highest traffic.  Sometimes people are hot on the trail for  a particular treatment.  Other times, people are using “disease name + new treatment”. Use both the treatment brand name (if there is one) and experimental name in your research titles or initial paragraphs.  You can then use these key words in your titles, posts/articles/landing pages for the clinical trial you are marketing for.  Remember 80% of ALL internet searches are health related, and 15% of these are for new treatments.

A sample of some common clinical trial related key words

A sample of some common clinical trial related key words

2.5 – Research

Market research that is.  Play around with key words and always have a 2 pronged campaign going where you can track what works better to attract and convert people.  Is it key words? Maybe a compelling image?  Come up with a testing strategy – don’t throw away valuable information by not conducting research!  It takes time, but it is so worth it. Here are some tools that can help you keep track of links and online research

  • Google Optimizer – This is a free service, but it is not in real time.  There is often a 3 – 6 hour delay
  • Link Trackr – This is a fee for service but they offer real-time results and can monitor all aspects of your campaign (links, conversions, research results tracking, tweets, emails etc)
  • – This is a great, free site that keeps track of and shortens links for you.  You just have to sign up.

3 -Pre-screen

Run a basic eligibility filter that screens for the most major eligibility criteria — just 2 – 4 points that a potential patient can easily fill out before entering their contact information.  Location, diagnosis, current or past treatments and insurance are often limiting factors that can easily be collected to rule out false positives.  Both patients and the physicians will be happy about this one.  If patients are not eligible, an option to go on a mailing list, or research similar trials can be provided.

4 -Simple and User-friendly

What ever medium you advertise the trial through, whether it be a blog, article or its own landing page, ensure that it is clean, simple, user friendly and easy for patients to navigate. Test the page. Have your friends and colleagues test the page.  Do all the links work?  Is it nice to look at?  Is it simple and easy to navigate?  Does everything make sense?  You want a low barrier to conversion and a nice looking and simple landing page will definitley help with that.  Once you have a well crafted landing page or blog about a clinical trial (or 2 for your research) replete with the hottest key words, then you can push that onto popular sites like Reddit, promote the page on group facebook pages, tag key constituents in the postings and definitley tweet about it…

A sample of one of our own clinical trial landing pages

A sample of one of our own clinical trial landing pages

5 – Ads

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other targeted ads can work.  We have found that the more money is dumped into them, the better the results.  A few hundred dollars here and there will not produce results.  If you have the money, tens of thousands of advertising dollars work and Facebook ads (as opposed to Google adds or Twitter promotions) have netted the largest catch for us.

Example of a clinical trial ad on Facebook

Example of a clinical trial ad on Facebook

All these methods have worked for us and have helped us recruit thousands of patients for the trials we advertise for.

Hope this helps for you too!

Here is our clinical trials searching page –!