How to Use Facebook for Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment

With 2 billion daily active users, Facebook is one of the most powerful ways to reach patients who may be interested in clinical trial opportunities. But if you're just starting out using the ad platform, or if you haven't had success with it in the past, it can be challenging to get your creative, targeting, and budget just right.

Before you start your next clinical trial patient recruitment campaign on Facebook, take these steps to prep in advance and find the best creative and targeting for your trial.

Research your audience.

Don't skip this step! Any successful ad campaign starts with a thorough understanding of the patient population you're trying to reach. Spend time on websites that patients visit, such as blogs and patient advocacy sites, as well as on social media pages for disease nonprofits. These sources can help you get a sense of how patients talk about their condition, what it's like for patients to live with their condition, and how your trial might impact them. You can also search for conversations around clinical trials specifically to better understand how patients talk about research participation.

"Research is critical to success with Facebook advertising, particularly given the recent Newsfeed changes,” says David Tindell, digital marketing manager at Antidote. "As Facebook encourages more meaningful interactions on its platform, the competition for ad placements is only expected to increase for patient recruiters. The big winners will be the ones who can increase their ads' relevance scores by researching what matters to patients.”

Create a range of ad options.

When you're creating ad materials for IRB submission, draft materials for all of Facebook ad placement options you're interested in using. Facebook adds new options all the time, but the most common uses currently include:

  • Link ads: For these ads, you'll create copy for the status update at the top, headline, and link description, as well as provide image options.
  • Banner ads: These ads appear on the sidebar of a user's Facebook, as well as on other websites if you're using Facebook's ad network. You'll create a headline and subheadline for these ads.
  • Carousel ads: These ads allow you to choose several images and create text headlines that users click through.
  • Video ads: Creating a video to promote your trial may be less complicated than you think. There are several tools out there that allow you to quickly edit video footage, or turn still images into videos. Try Quik to add text to photos,Videoshop for professional photo editing, Boomerang to create short looping videos, or Giphy Cam to create simple graphic animations.

Set your demographic and location targeting.

Be careful to set your demographic targeting based on your trial's inclusion and exclusion criteria, particularly age and location. As with any element in Facebook advertising, however, you may ultimately test different targeting choices even in demographic targeting. For example, if your trial is recruiting patients who may have a caregiver at home, you may choose to adjust your targeting to include younger Facebook users. You may also experiment with the distance radius targeting for your ads, if you find that patients in certain areas may be willing to travel more or less far for a trial.

Explore interest targeting.

The next layer you'll add to your Facebook campaign is interest targeting. Your options will vary based on condition, but chances are you'll be able to select from various disease organizations, general interest topics around the condition, and other categories that may be relevant to your audience.

"Exploring your target audiences' interests can be a great way to improve your ads' creative, as well,” says Tindell. "For example, use Facebook's Audience Insights to identify a subject that interests your target audience, and let this information guide the imagery you use. This method has been dubbed the ‘Inverted Unicorn' targeting strategy, and can help your ads stand out.”

Set up a conversion goal.

To truly optimize your ads and get the best results, it can be helpful to include conversation goal tracking. You may need to work with your web development team to set this part, but basically, you'll paste a bit of code on your trial's website. You can then track how many users per ad reach a certain page, such as the confirmation page for a patient who may be eligible for your trial based on your pre-screener. Once you have enough data from your tracking pixels, you can use this data to create lookalike audiences

"Make sure to think through the conversion goal you set up,” says Tindell. "Facebook recommends 50 conversions per ad set per week for its delivery system to optimize, so a conversion that is too low in the funnel may not improve campaign performance as much as an earlier indication of trial interest.”

Test and test again.

Running A/B tests is the best way to make sure you've chosen the optimal creative and targeting, but before you start, make sure you have a plan and set your tests up correctly. One common mistake is to test too many factors at once, which doesn't give you usable results. Try our tips for setting up an effective A/B test for clinical trial recruitment.

Optimizing a Facebook ad campaign is hard work, but it pays off when you find the right patients for your trial. Want to learn more about how Antidote connects patients with research using digital platforms as well as our network of 250+ nonprofit and patient advocacy partners? Get in touch below.