Social Media Recruitment


As health information on social media and online forums grows in popularity, studies are finding that the availability of social media tools is having a unique effect on people’s social media behavior. Patients are using social media to connect with each other around a health topic, sharing information and knowledge with peers, and sharing their health concerns. This makes the use of social media in clinical research a great option for recruitment efforts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), social media can connect millions of voices to:

  • Increase the timely dissemination and potential impact of health and safety information
  • Leverage audience networks to facilitate information sharing
  • Expand reach to include broader, more diverse audiences
  • Personalize and reinforce health messages that can be more easily tailored or targeted to particular audiences
  • Facilitate interactive communications, connection and public engagement
  • Empower people to make safer and healthier decisions

Use Our U-M Health Research Page to Promote Your Study

If you are not familiar with social media and not sure where to begin, we can help. MICHR's Participant Recruitment Program has a presence on social media that can promote your research, your lab, and even your study. U-M Health Research is our Facebook page and it is the platform where we will launch targeted social media advertising campaigns on behalf of study teams at U-M. Email us to find out more.

We will post your IRB-approved message on our Facebook page. This message must to link to your (previously posting. Our page has over 600 subscribers and we plan to post content daily to our Facebook page. Email us to post your IRB-approved message to our Facebook page.

Is using social media right for your study? How do you use social media as a recruitment strategy?

Study teams can recruit using social media in two ways, organic or paid advertising.

Targeted paid advertising allows for the placement of ads directly onto the pages of individuals who appear to meet the inclusion criteria for the study. This method can prove highly effective since you are casting a very specific recruitment strategy to individuals that Facebook has identified as meeting some of the criteria you are looking for in your volunteers. What method should you use? What works best? We can offer assistance answering these questions.

Instagram can also be utilized for recruitment. Facebook owns Instagram, which allows for advertisements to run simultaneously on both social media networks using the same ad image and content. This service has no extra cost and will be included in the lifetime budget you provide to us.

Our Staff Can Manage Your Facebook Advertising Campaign

For no additional cost, our staff will manage your study’s Facebook paid advertising campaign. We will work with you to create your ad, which will need to be IRB-approved (please plan to include this in your IRB application or create an IRB amendment). See below for specific information that we will need from you to create your ad:

*You MUST have a posting in order to use this service*

You’ll need to provide us with:

  • Study title
  • Quick description of study
  • Geographic location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Who are you trying to reach (parents, patients with cancer, etc)
  • Budget (we recommend at least $50 per week)
  • Duration of campaign (we recommend one month)

We will provide you with:

  • Weekly reports of your campaign success
  • How many clicks your ad receives
  • Which ad is most successful
  • Budget updates
  • Facebook uses a pay-per-click model – you will only be charged when your ad is clicked on by a user
  • Questions and answers about your campaign

Request a social media consultation.

Using Your Own Facebook Page to Promote Your Study

Organic is a method in which individual study teams create a Facebook page for their particular lab then cultivate a following for that lab. This method is very slow as it takes time to build relationships and engage people. You entertain followers, educate them and then inform them about study opportunities. This process is time consuming and will not pay immediate dividends if you are looking to enroll patients in short a short amount of time.

The IRB and Social Media

  • Social media in clinical research is becoming a very popular way to spread awareness. At U-M, the IRB supports the use of social media in research. When preparing your IRB submission, study specific posting will need to be approved by the IRB, be sure to include several sample messages you plan to use.

“Like” other similar pages.

  • If you are studying adrenal cancer, search for national and local groups for adrenal cancer, patient groups, and similar groups you may be aware of in your area. You can invite them to “Like” your page to draw traffic to your page.

Start posting

  • We suggest posting at least once a week. This will help to create consistency for those who follow you.

Follow the 30/30/30 rule

  • Post 30 percent educational content. Share facts about the topic you are conducting research on. For example, if you are researching a new medication to lower blood pressure, you could share a flier about easy steps to take to lower blood pressure. These types of posts do not have to be IRB-approved because they are not study-specific.
  • Post 30 percent informational content. Share articles or information from other fellow colleagues or researchers in your field. For example, your department is hosting a public event or will be attending a health fair. These posts do not have to be IRB-approved because they are not study-specific, but you want to make sure that they are from accredited sources.
  • Post 30 percent what you’re selling. Post about your study; ask those that follow you to tag a friend who might be interested. These posts are required to be IRB-approved because they are study-specific.

Make the content interesting

  • Aim to get a conversation going. Ask questions that many folks can answer to get folks engaged in an online conversation. (Garvey)
  • Share information that is relevant to your audience. If there is a local support group that is meeting, share the information and ask your followers to tag someone or share the information. Shares are free and can draw new people to your page. (Garvey)

Make yourselves human

  • Post a picture of your staff and show that you are not just a cold clinical entity, but that you are people. Post pictures of events you have at your office – Halloween parties, potlucks, holiday gatherings, etc. This allows people to see you having a little bit of fun and humanizes clinical research. (Garvey)

Brand your page

  • Be sure to use your U-M approved logo

Share your successes

  • Post about the successes you have seen in your trial. This can lead to further credibility and allows others to see the contributions of volunteers in clinical research trials.

Ensure privacy

  • Never post confidential patient information or post pictures of volunteers in your study. Be sure the content you post protect patients participating in your study.
  • Privacy settings can be modified to monitor what people are allowed to post and share on your site.

Tips and Resources


If you have questions about the guidance provided on this page, contact the MICHR Participant Recruitment Program at

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