PharmaVOICE Blog Post

Content that Clicks: Syneos Health Publishes Report on Social Media Marketing for Clinical Trial Recruitment

Posted By: Dan Limbach
January 22, 2019

75% of Americans seek medical information online at least once a month—and yet, just 11% of clinical trials implement social-media efforts to recruit participants. Perhaps consequently, nearly half of all clinical trials fail to meet their target enrollment numbers. There is staggering potential for growth. To that end, Syneos Health conducted a study to determine, among audiences likely to join clinical trials, what types of social-media content end up bringing in the highest number of new patients. Which channels are most effective, and what kinds of content should be placed there? The Content that Clicks report from Syneos Health addresses these questions and more.

Syneos Health surveyed 432 potential trials participants in the U.S., each of whom uses Facebook regularly and has previously sought out healthcare-related information online. They represented two disease states: migraines and epilepsy. Survey participants were asked questions ranging from their trust in different channels to how profoundly their health condition impacted their quality of life. Their responses yielded a rich array of data regarding channel planning, creative direction, and many other noteworthy strategic considerations.

Many trials sponsors may be reluctant to invest in social campaigns, but the Syneos Health study revealed fairly straightforward evidence of their value. Among epileptic patients, Facebook ranked as the second-most-recalled medium, behind only television. It was third among people with migraines. And across both conditions, people who reported that their quality of life was significantly impacted by their illnesses—those who, it stands to reason, would be most interested in clinical trials—tended to use social media the most frequently.

Though Facebook ads are widely well recalled, it bears mentioning that the issue of trust emerged prominently: many respondents indicated mistrust of Facebook content on account of the social network’s recent privacy scandals. Yet, notwithstanding lower levels of trust among many people, those respondents who were more likely to join trials still generally reported trusting content placed on Facebook.

Pinpointing people with lives severely affected by their conditions—and thus more likely to join trials—certainly helps with patient identification, but targeted ads aren’t enough to garner full enrollment. With so many active trials going on in the country, targeted ads must still reflect optimal creative strategy in order for a trial opportunity to stand out in the eyes of the participant.

Being sensitive to the ways people living with a given illness relate to others in that community can productively guide creative direction. For example, people with epilepsy are likely to trust other epileptics, while people with migraines are less likely to trust other migraine-sufferers. What does this have to do with strategy? Well, it can be as simple as featuring epilepsy patients in ads for epilepsy trials, but, for migraine trials, featuring doctors.

When it comes to knowing your audience, the Syneos Health study identified another critical, common mistake. A lot of healthcare advertising tends to focus on the promise of a better life and so depicts people at ease, healthy and unworried. Such aspirational content, however, can feel unrelatable to patients: people with migraines were more likely to click on content portaying people experiencing migraine symptoms.

Similarly, in the study, apt illustrations tended to spur greater engagement than stock photography, likely because participants may not identify with the particular person in a given photo, whereas an illustration can stimulate connections with a broader array of people.

Clinical trials constitute major investments of time, money, and infrastructure, frequently producing the most advanced treatments on the market. Yet their recruitment efforts tend to be behind the times, leaving even some of the most promising trials struggling to find patients, the core of any trial. The right social-media marketing approach can supercharge a site with robust enrollment, ample data, and life-changing therapies approved faster.

Read the report here.

About the Blog Poster: Dan Limbach

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