Maximizing Patient Enrollment through Social Media

Maximizing Patient Enrollment through Social Media

Can you think of any single activity that you do for over an hour each day, aside from your commute? Well, according to GlobalWebIndex, the average user spends 1.72 hours per day on social media. It has quickly become one of our major consumption channels and its usage expands beyond "socializing."

We are beyond justifying IF social media is a valuable component to achieving business goals. But in order to use social media to improve enrollment and engagement in mobile research efforts, we must seek to understand HOW to leverage it. We’ve found that there are three critical components to leveraging social media strategy for mobile research: identifying your social media audience (your potential patient pool, but also the greater support community), understanding the types of content that are relevant to them, and knowing how to spark a movement within this group.

1, 2, 3's of leveraging social media to maximize enrollment:

  • Identify your social media audience: Once you have identified your patient population, you need to identify where that population’s “social neighborhood” is. Where do they spend time online? That is where your message should live. If you are a researcher, know that your partner communication agency or in-house social media manager will be able to gather this data for you.
  • Understand content and context preferences: Does your audience prefer to read bite-sized pieces of content (think mini magazine articles), do they consume more videos, and do they over-index in quiz and interactive content consumption? Again, it’s important for your content to live within the context in which your potential patient pool is engaging with social media.
  • Seek to spark a movement: Remembering that your patients are not scientists, and perhaps not as motivated by the sheer collection of data. The message to them must answer the imperative question in marketing—that is “what’s in it for me?” If your message can express what the patient gets out of participating in the study (understand their sleep patterns, help solve a long-standing public health concern), then you are on your way to sparking a movement because you are cultivating a motivated patient set.

Social Media Done Right

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge is a fantastic example of social media engagement done right. Now, it’s important to note that the goal of the challenge was not to enroll patients in a mobile study (although apps like mPower show us that research apps have utility to examine neurological conditions that affect fine motor skills).

The team behind this program understood that their audience most often frequented Facebook (the only major platform that allowed video at the time), posted “look at me” style posts, and loved social capital. The mere act of videotaping oneself pouring ice over your head and calling out another person sparked a movement. A movement so large, in fact, that it took ALS’s average fundraising efforts for that time period from $1.9 million to $31.5 million.

They achieve the 1, 2, 3's of leveraging social media:

Identify your audience: Friends and family of those living with ALS

Understand content and context preferences: Mobile video with a viral component

Seek to spark a movement: By participating in the challenge, and encouraging others to do, they’re getting positive social recognition for doing a good deed.

They didn't ask their audience to be overt about their support for ALS via a post, but rather asked them to play online video tag for a good cause. They didn’t try to provide disease education, fundraising goals, or needs, which might have made more sense to the organization. Harnessing the power of social media often requires that a brand put the audience’s goals ahead of the organization and leave the educating to other channels.