Specify Your Search
Recruiting eligible and relevant samples is crucial for each clinical trial. You wouldn’t recruit healthy kids for a study on cardiovascular problems, would you? Well, Facebook also gives you the chance to specify your search. Social profiles are a bouquet of personal information. You can specify age, gender, and race. Many researchers fear that by using Facebook to recruit participants for their clinical trials, they may target only young people. While it’s true that some studies show that the average age of participants has shown a slight decrease, Facebook users are all age.
Do you want to target Millennials living in a cosmopolitan Asian city or people over 65 that represent a minority group? Go online! Facebook can help you in the clinical trial recruitment process. In fact, Nash et al. 2017 revealed that Facebook recruitment is highly beneficial for smaller regional cities because in large metropolises commuting may become a burden for some participants.
Cost-effectiveness: It Pays Off
Although scientists would give anything in the name of research, we should admit that conducting a study is expensive. Clinical trial recruitment is one of the aspects that cost a lot. Even though calculating the cost of all recruiting methods is difficult, it’s been proven that in the long term recruiting via social media is more than cost-effective.
Why? Simply because it guarantees more participants! For instance, Nash et al. 2017 explored the effect of Facebook advertising on recruitment into a blood pressure clinical trial. The team calculated the daily cost was $25/day for News Feed ad and $50/day for right-side panel ad (in Australian dollars) for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory and $30/day for News Feed ad and $100/day for right-side panel ad for Queensland. Although these figures might seem high, in fact, they only prove the effectiveness of social media recruitment: after the Facebook campaign, researchers managed to increase recruitment, with which their recruiting method paid off. On the other hand, Frandsen et al. 2016 also concluded that using social media as a recruiting method is more cost-effective, especially in the initial screening process. The cost to obtain a screen respondent was $22.73, which was much lower than any other conventional recruiting method ($29.35).
Be in Control
As an examiner, using social media channels give you the chance to exercise more control over the screening process. Facebook, for example, can help you choose a specific target group and various advertising frameworks. The targeting capabilities are very helpful. One can specify a location, ethnicity, language, age, and gender. To set another example, Nash et al. 2017 showed that Facebook clinical trial recruitment is highly effective for studies on cardiovascular-related topics, and in fact, their inclusion criteria were: men and women with high blood pressure, aged 35–69 years, currently taking medications.
Most of all, you can refine your audience based on interests and behaviors. Although some users don’t share much on their Facebook profiles, Facebook has many other ways to collect personal information: keywords, pages people like, ads clicked in the past, and even Google searches.
Also, researchers can control the number of clicks and costs, respectively. It’s been proven that medical ads on Facebook perform relatively well. The average click-through rate is .83%, the average cost per click – .83%, the average conversion rate – 11%, and the average cost per action – $12.31 (“Social Media & Clinical Trial Recruitment”). Compared to other industries, the use of Facebook for clinical trial recruitment is more than beneficial.
Last but not the least, when experts rely on social media channels (Facebook, in particular) for clinical trial recruitment, they can also decide on the types of ads and the various placement options. In general, Facebook has four placement options – on a desktop News Feed, on a mobile News Feed, on the right side of the page, and on an Instagram account. All ads include a header, an image, a call-to-action element, and user-engagement options. In fact, the famous thumbs up and comments we associate Facebook with are the so-called user-engagement options. So if you don’t want a single comment to backfire, you can simply disable these options. For example, Nash et al. 2016 employed more than one: ads placed in the right-side panel of the Facebook News Feed and ads placed directly into the News Feed through the University of TAS Facebook page. Of course, one should focus on the official page of the study where the respondents would be redirected. URLs are usually placed in the so-called call-to-action area. Experts say that pages should be easy to reach, designs should be simple and the purpose of the study should be communicated accordingly (“e-Recruiting: Using Digital Platforms, Social Media, and Mobile Technologies to Improve Clinical Trial Enrollment”). In other words, keep medical terms short.