Using Facebook Ads for Patient Recruitment: How to Create Ads with Strong Visual Imagery and Good Calls to Action

With over 1.15 billion active users, Facebook is becoming an increasingly important way for clinical research sites to recruit patients for their studies. While patient populations certainly exist on Facebook, connecting with them on the world’s largest social network isn’t always easy. In order for patients to find your study in an online space already saturated with ads, creating advertisements with strong visual imagery and good calls to action is vital.   

Creating Strong Visual Imagery

Although it may seem obvious, a piece of your advertisement that cannot be overlooked is the image you choose to present to your audience. Using commonplace diagnostic pictures or images of non-descript doctors will not catch the attention of patients—the audience you are trying to connect with. Your goal is to find a find a happy marriage between functionality and noticeability in your image of choice.

Keep in mind that strong visual imagery is always:

1.) Eye-Catching

Your image is the first thing people will see when they come across your advertisement. Unless the image is eye-catching and engaging, people will breeze right past. Use vibrant colors, and always select the highest quality image possible. Low-quality photos will appear cheap and are not eye-catching.

2.) Relevant

Naturally, the image needs to pair with the idea, text, and call to action of the ad. All parts of the ad need to work together to produce a cohesive, clear message to the audience. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes; images that seem relevant to medical professionals may not seem relevant to the audience/patient.

3.) Aesthetically Pleasing

Image attractiveness is also very important. Smiling faces, happy families, and pretty backgrounds are all good things to include. Advertisements that include images of suffering or unhappy patients will be less successful in garnering a response from your audience.

4.) Memorable

Memorable images and advertisements are perhaps the most challenging thing to create. Successful, memorable Facebook ads encompass each of the components listed above.

If you do not have the means to create or access high quality photos, Facebook has its own bank of stock photos available for use. A few years ago,  Facebook partnered with Shutterstock to offer 25 million free stock photos to advertisers using the platform.

If you are interested in obtaining your own stock images, Shutterstock and Thinkstock have many great photos to choose from. Thinkstock charges by download packages, starting at $49 for 5 downloads.  Shutterstock follows the same pricing format, with 2 images for $29 listed as their lowest package. Although you can certainly obtain many of the same Shutterstock photos from Facebook, it may be advantageous to get an account in case you want to use those same photos in your other marketing collateral to keep a consistent brand.

Utilizing Google is another option for image gathering, but please note that not all images on Google are deemed legal to use. You must go to Google Images and then to the tools section, and then you must change the usage rights to “labeled for reuse.”  Once you have activated this setting, all photos that populate will be legal to use. Doing this often limits your photo options, but if you are in a pinch this is a safe way to go. 

Creating Quality Calls to Action

Another key feature of a successful Facebook ad is a strong call to action. Your call to action should provide clear and direct information for patients to easily act on. Explain the benefit of the action; use active verbs, and be as specific as possible. Since you are trying to incite action, avoid words that are lackluster or boring.

As with your image choice, make sure your call to action is relevant to your text. Examples of strong, accessible, and relevant calls to action might include instructions such as: “Click to qualify,” “Click to find out more information,” “Sign up for this clinical trial today!”

In Summary

Facebook-- with its vast, active online population-- provides invaluable opportunities to help the right patients find your study. As social media is further saturated with ads, connecting with these individuals means that your advertisement needs to stick out. Make your advertisement memorable by curating eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing images that are relevant to both your text and your audience. Once you have caught the eye of your potential participant, make sure your call to action provides clear direction on what to do next. You can have an excellent, eye-catching ad, but if you don’t prompt your audience to act, it’s all for naught.