Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment on Facebook: 5 Common Mistakes

With 2 billion active users, Facebook can be one of the most powerful ways to reach patients who may be interested in clinical trials – but it's easy to make mistakes, too. Successful campaigns are all about testing, learning, and optimizing throughout the clinical trial patient recruitment process. In addition, ensuring patients are recruited efficiently and economically also entails avoiding common pitfalls, ,which can be relatively easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Watch out for these five common mistakes, and you'll raise the chances that your ads will be a success.

Mistake 1: You're testing too many factors at once.

When you first start a new advertising campaign, you're probably eager to test all of the different outreach ideas you developed during planning. One common mistake marketers make is testing too many ideas at once. Be sure to set up your tests so that you can determine the single factor that contributed to the ad's success over its competitor. For example, you may test several different headlines for your ads while keeping the image and other text the same. It's also important to make sure your results are statistically significant, which typically means running your ad test for a certain amount of time until enough patients are reached.

"Clinical trial marketing is enabled by technology and empowered by data. Statistical significance ensures your data is pointing your technology in the right direction," says David Tindell, Antidote's marketing manager. Read more tips on creating effective ad tests.

Mistake 2. Your ads don't reflect your patient population.

Make sure you have plenty of image options in your IRB submission packet, too. Facebook research suggests that images account for 75% to 90% of an ad's performance, so it's a critically important piece to get right.

"If you are trying to reach a broad patient population you may have better luck targeting by experiences, rather than demographics," says Katrina Ambrose, Antidote's senior designer, marketing. “Illustration is a great tool for communicating symptoms, behaviors, and experiences without alienating segments of your audience."

Mistake 3. You're not viewing or responding to comments.

As a warning, reading the comments on your Facebook ads may help you develop a tougher skin. It's no secret that internet commenters can be impolite about their feedback, to say the least. But taking a lot at comments can offer you helpful clues about what may not be working in your ad, including confusing language, a technical error on your landing page, or targeting that misses the mark.

When you check comments, you can also respond directly to patients who report that they weren't able to open your website link, or who aren't sure how to take the next step if they're interested in your trial.

Mistake 4: You're not targeting the right patients.

One reason Facebook is so popular with advertisers is the breadth of its targeting options. Regardless of the trial you're running, chances are you'll be able to choose interest targeting related to the condition area of your trial.

At the same time, it's easy to create audiences on Facebook that are either too narrow – and often expensive – or too broad to reach your intended audience in a cost-effective way. "When I create an audience, I consider the tradeoff between audience relevance and increased CPM cost. Rule of thumb is that CPM increases as an audience becomes more targeted, so it's important to not to be too specific or too broad," says David. When you set up ads in Facebook, the ad tool can help give an indication of how precise your audience selection is.

When you hit a targeting sweet spot, Facebook will let you know that your "audience is defined."

Some of the signs that you may not be reaching the right patients may be obvious, particularly if patients simply aren’t engaging with your ads. But other issues may be sneakier. For example, patients may click on your ads and fill out your prescreener or take another action, but then be ineligible for your trial. Closely monitor the reasons patients screen fail or are otherwise ineligible for your trial, and update your audience from there. You may consider adding exclusions to your audience group, or trying a new audience altogether.

Mistake 5: You stopped monitoring your campaign.

Even once your campaign is humming along and sending qualified patients your way, it’s important to continue monitoring and making adjustments when necessary. If you’re targeting a small audience for a long period of time, for example, you may want to refresh your ad creative to re-engage patients. As you learn more about how patients behave further down the patient journey, you may choose to make adjustments then, too. One ad or audience segment may perform well in terms of getting patients to submit their email addresses, but those patients may ultimately be less likely to consent into your trial.

Ready to start planning your next campaign? Download our free patient recruitment template to get organized.