Is Your Trial Social?

Social media in clinical trial recruitment

Is Your Trial Social?

Even the most reluctant among us are coming around to social media, with 2.31 billion users now active on social media globally1.  Still pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been slow to embrace social media for clinical trials. In the absence of regulatory guidance specific to the use of social media for clinical trials, many of our pharmaceutical and biotech clients are creating their own social media guidelines and taking tentative steps in this arena. Another way to get traction with social media is a site-based approach, which we are using to increase referrals for a diabetes study. Early numbers are in – and it’s proving to be an effective strategy.

Fish where the fish are

We’re seeing more and more use of Twitter and Facebook for trial recruitment and for good reason. In a survey of trial volunteers, more than 74% reported that the information found online influenced their decision to join a clinical trial2. As the saying goes,”fish where the fish are.”

Study sponsors are slow to adopt social media for trials for two reasons: 1) handling information and 2) uncertainty.  A top concern for the industry is maintaining patient privacy. And while Facebook and other social media sites allow for control of posts and messaging, rigorous monitoring is essential.  Add to this the uncertainty of how to use social media for trials and, often times, an undefined review and approval process for content.  To overcome the internal hurdles requires patience and persistence.

Teaching sites to fish

UBC has worked with sponsors to help navigate this new territory, both with the client’s internal stakeholders and to gain regulatory guidance.  This takes time.  We have also worked directly with sites to do their own social media for patient recruitment.  In other words, we teach sites to fish.  This approach has proven successful for clinical studies – it’s customizable, faster to initiate than traditional methods, and it produces results.

What kind of results are we seeing with site-based social media? We used this strategy for a study enrolling patients with type 2 diabetes. By tailoring content to sites, weekly online pre-screens doubled, and online referrals to sites grew by up to 25% for those sites targeted.

How do we do it? By conducting influencer outreach, preparing content that resonates, and working hand-in-hand with sites to show them how to do it.  We find that sites are eager to promote a trial and recruit patients using social media. Often times what stands in their way is that they don’t know how to go about it or they need help developing content. We make it easy for sites. But that’s just the start. Click here to learn more.

1Facebook; Tencent; VKontakte,, Nikkei, VentureBeat, Niki Aghaei; UN, US Census Bureau for population data.
2“Using Social Media in Clinical Trial Recruitment,” FDANews 2015