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Leveraging Social Media for Patient Recruitment in Clinical Trials

Leveraging Social Media for Patient Recruitment in Clinical Trials

Identifying and connecting with prospective patients for clinical trials via social media and digital channels presents several challenges due to regulations that restrict patient communications. For example, the FDA has issued guidelines on the use of social media in patient recruitment. The guidelines recommend that researchers ensure that the content of their social media posts is accurate, balanced, and not misleading.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission (EC) enforce strict rules ensuring the safety and efficacy of clinical trials and protecting patient privacy. With social networks, such as Facebook, regularly changing their guidelines for advertisements, it can be challenging to keep up with the ever-shifting environment. Life sciences organizations are continually faced with regulatory complexities and hurdles in connecting with key patient demographics.

Let’s delve deeper into the challenges of recruiting for clinical trials through social media and identify areas where life sciences organizations can continue to reach out to target audiences while remaining compliant with regulatory guidance.

Restrictions to Recruiting Patients for Clinical Trials through Social Media
Several countries within the EU have implemented country-specific restrictions on promoting clinical trials on digital platforms, such as Google and Meta. This limits digital reach to these markets and has the potential to negatively impact trial recruitment for prospective patients who are prevalent on these platforms.

Additionally, there are strict guidelines around the use of language in clinical trial promotion. The EMA and EC have guidelines in place to ensure that language used in clinical trial promotion is not misleading or exaggerated. This can make it difficult for clinical trial sponsors and investigators to effectively communicate the potential benefits of a treatment and recruit patients.

A major challenge is the restriction on the use of patient testimonials in clinical trial promotion. Patient testimonials can be powerful tools for recruiting patients, but they are not allowed under EMA and EC regulations. This means that clinical trial sponsors and investigators are not able to use real-life stories or quotes from patients to promote their trials on social media or online.

Ensure Successful Patient Recruitment through Social Media with These 4 Strategies

To overcome some of these challenges, clinical trial sponsors and investigators can use these four strategies.

#1 SEO
Optimizing website content for specific keywords enables clinical trial sponsors and research organizations to attract more potential participants who are actively searching for information about their conditions or treatment options. This also enables organizations to demonstrate their expertise in a particular area and build trust with potential participants. When targeting global markets, optimizing multilingual sites/pages following local keyword research and SEO best practices is critical to ensure even coverage of the global recruitment efforts. In addition to reaching multilingual audiences with the best messaging, multilingual SEO approaches drive organic, high search rankings and, therefore, increase an organization’s chances of meeting its patient recruitment targets.

#2 Incorporate Social Listening
Engaging with the right expertise to conduct market research in new countries can help life sciences organizations assess their target markets in terms of levels of competition and market trends. Rolling out a social listening strategy can capture general audience sentiment and identify relevant conversations and insights into the concerns, opinions, and experiences of patients, plus the types of treatments, interventions, and outcomes that patients are most interested in. This can then be leveraged to paint a clear picture of potential trial partners and design studies that are more patient-centered.

#3 Use Third-Party Sources
Leverage sources, such as news articles or scientific publications, to promote the trial and its potential benefits. Additionally, researchers may use social media to provide general information about the trial and the disease or condition being studied rather than promoting the trial itself.

#4 Use Generic Language
Use generic language that does not imply specific results or outcomes. Limit or eliminate the incorporation of specific patient testimonials.


Generally, many research organizations run into limitations associated with marketing clinical trials and conducting patient recruitment on social media platforms and digital channels in tightly regulated markets. However, by using a combination of alternative strategies, clinical trial sponsors and investigators can still effectively promote their trials and reach potential patients.

Partnering with a vendor with expertise in overcoming these challenges can provide a stronger framework for recruiting and engaging prospective trial partners while remaining in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Curious to learn more? Contact us today to discover how TransPerfect Life Sciences can support your global social media patient recruitment strategies.