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Social media tips for research sites

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Pulse on Site Success by Christophe Berthoux

When sites are juggling multiple studies, it can be easy to push social media efforts to the backseat. However, this may deter from opportunities to expand clinical trial awareness and potentially bringing new business to sites. Fortunately, a site can implement tools and processes to allow for social media interaction, while maintaining the balance between keeping up with administrative workloads and providing patient care.

First and foremost, it is critical to determine what is to be accomplished through the use of social media. Perhaps a site wishes to raise awareness of current and future studies, increase traffic to a website, establish themselves as an industry thought leader or educate the community about clinical research. Set specific and measurable goals that are attainable and understood among all staff. Identifying social media goals will ultimately help establish focus in terms of curating content.

Another important step is to consider the ideal audience and find out where they spend most of their time online in order to decide which channels are most appropriate. For instance, if a research site wishes to target an elderly population, it may not seem necessary to use Snapchat or another outlet that is typically used by younger groups. Sites should consider the options that are the best fit for their needs and eliminate any that don’t seem appropriate. It can seem enticing to post across multiple channels, but it’s important not to spread efforts too thin, covering too many platforms.

An internal social media policy should be established to define expectations regarding who will maintain the channels, what will be posted and how other staff members will interact with content. Allocate resources accordingly. Will there be one person responsible for maintaining these accounts or a team? Establish any approval processes required and determine timelines. Plan what types of content will be created and the frequency with which it will be published. Keep in mind, if patient recruitment efforts are to be executed through social media, the same regulations related to print and radio ads apply. The FDA has released a collection of documents to provide direction regarding social media.

In terms of creating content and deciding what to post, it can be tempting to use social media as a free advertising tool. Don’t take the bait! Social media is a great way to entertain, educate and interact with an audience who can always be directed to a website for more information. Most online visitors expect a tailored experience and aren’t likely to spend much time on a page if it is only repeating information that can also be found on a primary website. Promote relevant, interesting content that speaks to the targeted audience and directs readers toward a landing website should they seek additional information.

Finally, consider how posts will be made on all social channels. It is possible to manually post on each platform every time there is something to share, but this can be tedious and extremely time-consuming. Take advantage of tools aimed at saving time and optimizing delivery. Dashboards such as Hootsuite or Buffer are widely used social media management platforms that enable administrators to manage multiple accounts and schedule future posts with a calendar layout. There is also an ability to manage posts’ approvals embedded within the dashboard. Most platforms such as Facebook provide analytics and insights to show when users are most active. Management dashboards simplify the process by allowing scheduled posts, so a social media manager can plan in advance to share content when users are commonly most active on their page.

Another tool that can be implemented to save time is a chatbox platform. If an audience is keen on messaging, it can be tricky to keep up with requests. Chatbox platforms were developed as an artificial intelligence solution to messaging. ChattyPeople, as an example, can be configured to respond to messages or comments and can be triggered to respond to certain phrases such as “make an appointment.” This is particularly useful if any messaging needs to be approved by a review board, as all responses are scripted.

Diving into the world of social media may seem daunting, but once a plan is established, it will help streamline the process of keeping up a regular posting schedule. Social media is a powerful tool when used properly, and can serve as a great channel to amplify the voice of research sites. 


Dr. Christophe Berthoux has been the chief executive officer at Synexus since September 2010. Synexus is the world’s leading site management organization (SMO), dedicated to the recruitment and management of clinical trials across the globe for over 24 years. Synexus is proud to be the patient’s choice for clinical research. Email comments and questions to sarah@vanepercy.com.

This article was reprinted from CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »

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