April 19th, 2017

Want to Recruit More Prospective Patients for Your Clinical Trial? Start Advertising on Facebook


Facebook’s large and highly relevant audience make it an ideal platform for digital clinical trial recruitment.

By now, most sponsors and CROs are well aware of social media’s potential impact as a patient recruitment resource. However, it’s important to remember that social media users rely on different platforms for different purposes, meaning that not all will be well-suited for attracting clinical trial participants.

Facebook has emerged as a clear frontrunner in terms of generating real results for our clients and lowering operational costs. While some of the credit, of course, goes to the social media network’s impressive ad targeting and performance monitoring capabilities, at the end of the day, none of this would even be possible without its massive – and incredibly relevant – user base.

For those still on the fence about Facebook advertising for clinical trials, here are a few points that present a compelling case for investment.

A Huge Audience of Prospective Participants

As of December 2016, Facebook had approximately 1.86 billion active monthly users and 1.23 billion active daily users. Its current growth rate is approximately 20% year-over-year. Experts anticipate that the U.S. user base alone will reach 162.2 million by 2018.

But it’s not just the fact that it has a large user base that makes it so impactful – it’s that the vast majority of patients with a given condition (along with their caregivers) are on the platform. The chart below shows several examples of conditions and their associated patient populations:

Condition Prevelance (U.S.) Facebook Population Notes
Alzheimers 5,200,000 8,000,000 100% coverage – 3 million extra represents caregivers or propsective patients (genetic history)
Parkinsons 1,000,000 1,100,000 100% coverage
Type II Diabetes  21,000,000 13,000,000 62% coverage

Facebook’s User Base is Incredibly Diverse

Facebook users span the entire spectrum in terms of age, gender, and race.


  • 82% of 18-to-29-year-olds online use Facebook
  • 79% of 30-to-49-year-olds online use Facebook
  • 56% of those ages 65 and up who are online use Facebook


  • 76% of all female-identified internet users are on Facebook
  • 66% of all male-identified internet users are on Facebook


  • 73% of all Latinos online use Facebook
  • 67% of all African Americans online use Facebook
  • 71% of all Caucasians online use Facebook

Many within the clinical trial industry view Facebook as a primarily Millennial-centric network, making it unsuitable for geriatric recruitment; however, this is no longer the case. The latest available data suggests that there are more than 18.4 million seniors who are active on the platform each month.

What’s more, in light of the FDA’s increasing emphasis on ethnically representative patient populations, Facebook’s wide demographic reach makes it an ideal tool to help manage participant diversity and secure approval quickly and efficiently.

Reach New Audiences

Patients generally rely on social networks like Facebook for community support and sharing information or receiving advice from their peers. But the fact that they’re not typically using it as an active research tool (like they would use a search engine, for example) doesn’t mean they won’t be receptive to an offer to participate in a study.

For this reason, the platform presents an opportunity for sponsors and CROs to tap into an audience that may not even be aware of clinical trials as a viable treatment option. In other words, you can bring the information directly to the patients, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

When you consider the general lack of awareness about clinical trials, then couple it with Facebook’s immense audience and powerful targeting capabilities, it’s not difficult to see the potentially enormous impact of Facebook advertising from a recruitment perspective.