You’ve probably heard of clinical trials. They are frequently mentioned in the media whenever there is a new advancement in medicine. But you might not know they are randomized, meaning the participants are not specifically chosen. Depending on the goals of the trial, certain populations are targeted but researchers do not know in advance who might be involved. It helps to keep the results fair and objective.

Of course, to get a large enough size of possible volunteers, those in charge of conducting trials need to recruit members of the public. They do this using advertising, usually in newspapers and other traditional media. For the most part, these recruitment documents are rather boring but at times, they can be inventive…

clinical-trial(Who wouldn’t want to contact this researcher?)

But now there may be another way to recruit participants using social media. Last month, a team of Australian researchers reported on how they were able to acquire volunteers using something we have all seen…

The Facebook Ad

At first glance, you might not know what exactly is being offered other than a ten dollar gift voucher. That’s the plan…they want you to wonder. When you click on the link, however, you won’t be taken to some clothing manufacturer or travel booking agency as you might expect. Instead, you end up here…

vaccine-studyThat’s right…a vaccine clinical trial.

The paper examined the effect of this type of advertising over the course of four years, from 2011 to 2015. In addition to the advertisement above, they also had other slightly more informative ads like this one…

You might have even seen the advert and clicked on it.

Over the course of the four years, the ad had 55,381,637 impressions with a reach of 984,159 people. As for how many women actually clicked on the link? It was rather small at 23,714, or about two and a half percent.

The click rate was pretty low in comparison to standard advertising, which has about a three to six percent return rate. Yet, for the authors of the study, this was significantly higher than other methods as they ended up with 919 potential volunteers. Almost four-fifths had seen the ad and made the choice to apply. The others were either referred by friends or read the advert on a friend’s wall.

As for the cost, it was just over 22,000 Australian dollars, or about $24 per participant. For the authors, this was rather inexpensive burden for this type return. They had what they needed and more importantly, developed a method which others can use to improve their own clinical trial recruitment.

In light of this study, this seems like a win-win situation. But I have to ask…would you click on a Facebook post advertising a clinical trial? Maybe it’s just me but that still seems a little sketchy.

Let me know your thoughts…

Oh, and if you want to read more on this concept, here’s the link to the paper…
Targeted Facebook Advertising is a Novel and Effective Method of Recruiting Participants into a Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Effectiveness Study

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