Using Facebook Ads for Patient Recruitment: How to Select an Audience

Facebook’s vast and diverse user population provides an invaluable resource for patient recruitment, but without the right audience, it will be nearly impossible for patients to find your study. In this blog, we will discuss how to select the right audience for your ads in order to get the most out of your Facebook advertisements.

Setting a Location

Setting a location for your advertisements will allow you to center the broadcast area of your ads; naturally, this should be your site location. Patients will likely not be interested in driving too far out of their way to participate in your study, so limiting your ad radius to a reasonable driving distance (30-40 miles) around your site will help you reach a relevant audience and maximize ROI. It is beneficial to switch this broadcast setting to “People who live in this location.” This way, you will only target Facebook users who live near your research site, rather than visitors to the area.

Defining an Age Range

Facebook provides a unique opportunity to help you effectively reach an audience of any age-- whether that’s 18+, 50+, or less than 18 years old. Of all internet users, 79% aged 30-49 use Facebook, and surprisingly, 56% of internet users ages 65 and up are active on the site. If your site has seen particular successes with a certain age range within your study’s qualification criteria-- let’s say you’ve noticed that people aged 25-40 are more likely to participate in a study than 18-25-year-olds-- feel free to narrow your broadcast age range. This change can help you get a larger ROI when advertising on Facebook.

When recruiting children for a study, you can use Facebook as an advertising tool to reach the decision makers in the child’s household. If your study is designed to help young children, you might have the highest likelihood of connecting with the right patients if your target audience is defined as young adult, perhaps between the ages of 25-35 years.

Specifying a Gender

Facebook’s audience targeting tools specify three gender selections: “Men,” “Women,” and “All.” Of course, this can be kept consistent with the qualifying criteria for your study. Keep in mind that studies designed to help children are most successful in recruiting patients when ads are broadcast to the person in charge of the child’s healthcare. Statistically speaking, this tends to be a female parent or guardian, but selecting “All” will account for all family structures. Choose the option that makes the most sense for your study.    

Targeting Interests and Behaviors

These options offer the most detailed selections when choosing an audience, and can be extremely effective in helping you find the specific patients who will benefit from your study. For example, if you are running a Cancer Study, you might set your advertisement to broadcast to Facebook users interested in “Cancer Research,” “Investigational Medicine,” etc. These settings will target users who have indicated interest or behaved like your desired audience to ensure your advertisements reach the most relevant audience, allowing patients to find your study and maximizing ROI.   

In Summary

With over 1 billion users on the site, selecting a relevant audience for your Facebook ad can seem daunting. When using Facebook’s detailed audience selection tools, considering an audience consistent with the qualification criteria for your study will help you reach the right patients, allowing you to get the most out of your investment.