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  • Writer's pictureYVAN LAMOUREUX

Social Media for Patient Recruitment and Retention

The number of social media users has grown by 10% to 4.55 billion and continues to increase. Moreover, there has been a dramatic increase in social media use across all demographics. With the growing number of social media users, many sites, sponsors, CROs, and investigators have embraced social media as a patient recruitment channel for numerous clinical studies.

Aside from patient engagement and recruitment, organizations can execute social media campaigns to identify trial issues, address barriers, research their audience, engage multiple groups, and educate them.

However, sometimes it can be challenging for recruiters to decide which platforms are a good fit for their clinical trials. This article will discuss clinical studies that benefit significantly from social media recruitment.

Clinical Trials Where Social Media Recruitment Works

Clinical trial recruitment via social media works because it allows clinicians to identify specific groups with similar interests quickly. For instance, parents interested in their children’s health will most likely join groups and online patient communities to learn more. Therefore, they will most likely agree to participate in pediatric studies. The same applies to people who take care of their health and well-being.

In the sections below, we have outlined the types of clinical trials for which social media works best.

Prolonged Illnesses

People with similar symptoms can connect through social media, receive support from others suffering from the same condition, and get informed about new treatments or clinical trials more efficiently than ever. Clinical trials are likely to be most successful with patients with a personal interest in a particular condition. In many cases, people who have been living with a medical condition for a long time will accept participation in a clinical trial because they want to contribute to the field and improve their quality of life.

An individual with a loved one suffering from a prolonged illness is more likely to pass along a suitable research study to someone who suffers from asthma, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, or another long-lasting disease. If they can make a loved one’s condition more manageable, they will be more likely to recommend it to another friend or relative.


Recruiting children over social media to partake in clinical trials comes with certain obstacles. According to the law, children under thirteen cannot give away personal information via social media without a parent’s consent.

Clinical trial recruitment teams must then take different approaches and target the parents of children who can potentially be part of clinical trials related to pediatric studies. In some countries, even teenagers must have a parent’s permission to be part of clinical research trials. However, contacting a legal guardian is more straightforward with social media to verify if a teenager is willing to participate.

Sexual Health

Although sexual health is something most people are shy about, some clinical trials have successfully recruited patients for these kinds of studies through social media. The benefit is that volunteers can register privately without worrying about their identities being revealed.

Mental Health

Mental health or psychology studies are sometimes suitable for social media if they require a specific demographic. For instance, Facebook advertising allows you to target married couples, people in relationships, or even populations of a specific age.

Additionally, people with a prolonged mental illness are likely to enroll in a study that concerns them or their loved ones. Mentally ill patients may also feel more comfortable registering online for a study to protect their privacy.

Senior Demographic

Thanks to the rise and influence of social media, clinical trial researchers are no longer limited to young people. It has become easier to approach and recruit older demographics via social media platforms.

Facebook is still the number one platform for recruiting demographics approaching the early sixties and suffering from prolonged conditions. Surprisingly, recruiting seniors via mobile applications has also yielded excellent results.

Nutrition and Fitness

Researchers can easily locate and recruit people for fitness studies thanks to the thousands of fitness, diet, and nutrition groups across the major social platforms. Nowadays, more and more people take care of their diet, lead a healthy lifestyle, and are generally interested in this sphere. Therefore, they readily sign up to become part of clinical trials.

Healthy Volunteers

Clinical researchers need help finding candidates that meet specific demographic and eligibility criteria. Social media has proven to work exceptionally well with studies that require healthy volunteers. Clinicians know they can find many of them on social networks. This is great because they can use Facebook advertising, for instance, to target a broad demographic without focusing on specific interests.


Social media platforms allow recruiters to target people with common characteristics and living in specific areas. Thus, they can pinpoint and reach candidates residing in certain cities, ZIP codes, or broader geographic regions.


Clinical research organizations and pharmaceutical companies increasingly leverage social and digital media to recruit and engage patients online. However, no universal social media platform will suit every patient or clinical trial. Researchers must consider which platform is ideal for which trial and if social media advertising is appropriate for their study. Other essential factors include the cost, the type of conditions they are recruiting for, and the social media demographic pool size, among other things.

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