In our last post, we went over two big reasons why social media is not the answer to study-specific recruitment. But social media does have value in the clinical research space.
Now we’ll name 3 challenges that clinical research sites face and detail how social media can aid in overcoming those challenges. After discussing these challenges, you’ll see that while social media is not the solution to your recruitment woes, it can help you bolster existing recruitment efforts. In addition, social media can help you develop relationships with CROs.
1. Increasing Visibility
As a quick exercise, I want you to hop over to Google and type in “clinical trials” with your city name. Ignore the ads for today. What do you see in the search results?
If your site is not visible in these results, here is something to consider: 95% of non-branded natural clicks come from the first page of search results. And approximately 56% of clicks go to the very first result in rankings, tapering drastically as you go down page one.
So if your site is positioned unfavorably, you lose a free opportunity to communicate with patients already interested in clinical trials. And you’re also less visible to CROs or investigator database companies using search engines to locate sites.
I have some suggestions to increase rankings visibility, but since social media is the topic of this post, we’re just focusing on that piece of it. The relationship between social media and search engine optimization (SEO) is symbiotic, and many search engine experts argue that social media is the future of SEO. A strong social media presence can help you rank competitively in the search engine results and increase your overall visibility.
The more original content you put out via a blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites, the more likely patients or CROs will find you. And the best part about producing valuable content and putting it out there for consumption is that you can continue to reap the SEO benefits for years.
2. Building Awareness & Engagement
Research consistently shows that a big challenge to clinical trials is lack of awareness. And for patients aware of clinical trial opportunities that have chosen not to participate, misconceptions are common. The solution, of course, is education. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to reach people in order to provide that education.
Social media’s strengths, which include promoting engagement, conversations, and relationships, present a new opportunity for clinical trials education. Research professionals can now leverage a communications medium conducive to building awareness about clinical trials, dispelling misconceptions, and removing some mystery surrounding a potentially intimidating process.
Social media can also be used to build brand awareness for your research site, thus attracting interest from CROs and sponsors. A website can be helpful in introducing yourself to sponsors and CROs, but social media is a superior medium for giving your brand some additional dynamism, personality, and humanity.
And that additional brand awareness is what will help you stand apart from other sites with similar qualifications. Yes, CROs will want to know details like the temperature of your freezers, but they are also looking for clues about the daily operations and culture of your site. And that is insight a social media presence will provide.
3. Inspiring Trust & Building Rapport
Your research staff may have the best of qualifications and accomplishments, but lengthy CVs alone will not get the respect of patients or attract new studies. You need a better way to demonstrate your site’s expertise and establish rapport, thus cementing yourself as a trusted authority and partner for both patients and CROs.
Use social media to share your knowledge, interact, and be helpful. Not only will the information be appreciated, but your engagement will also demonstrate expertise and build relationships. A strong social media presence provides new potential patients with a reason to trust you and it strengthens your relationship with existing patients.
You can also reap the benefits of social media in your relationships with CROs and sponsors. Sponsors invest a huge amount of time, money, and other resources in each study they conduct, so it’s no surprise that they take site selection very seriously. And as you know, the site selection process involves a whole host of procedures and questions designed to ensure that you will be a trusted research partner.
Use your social media profiles to demonstrate your understanding of clinical research and expertise within a particular therapeutic indication. By developing a solid social media presence, you can establish yourself as a knowledgeable and trusted research partner.
In short, social media can help you increase visibility, build awareness and engagement, and inspire trust and rapport with patients and CROs alike. But please beware.
Social media is not the space to be overly self-promotional or pushy. If you have plans to excessively promote your newest study, you will find that very few people want to listen. But if you provide value to others, your results will be much more impressive.
Don’t get me wrong. It is perfectly acceptable to tweet an IRB-approved ad for a study on occasion. But these types of messages should comprise no more than 20% of your social media communication.
Certainly, there’s more to social media than observing this rule, but it is by far the most important. If your social media presence provides value to others, you will be well on your way to building important relationships with both patients and CROs.