The social media world is hardly new. It is, however, a relatively new concept within the clinical trials universe and the UK is well behind the rest. One of the things that often stops researchers is the lack of clear ethical guidance on the subject of social media recruitment.
Lets back up a bit. Research Ethical Commitees (RECs) approve all clinical trial materials, and recruitment methods. Without approval, you can do nothing. Therefore, it is up to each research team to submit publications, adverts, posters, texts before they go out.
For websites, blogs and even Facebook, this can be a relatively simplistic exercise. A text can be approved that can be put onto each of these sites, although it needs to be copied exactly. They can include information on how to join the study, contact details and limited inclusion criteria. Small websites with links to patient information leaflets can also be set up with relative ease.
So this is the media aspect. In much the same way you would put up a poster, you post on your blog or Facebook wall. The problems may arise with the ‘social’ aspect of the new media. Can you respond to a question about the study over Facebook? Do you have to approve every tweet? Can others retweet you? How many tweets are appropriate? These kind of questions need to be answered by Ethics committees, otherwise an important way of engaging with the wider public will be rendered ineffective.
The world leaders for social media usage are the USA. There are even private companies providing digital recruitment services such as Rebar interactive. There is still limited guidelines on this subject from american Ethics committees, however their experience has given them lots of useful knowledge.
Perhaps you are involved in social media recruitment in the UK or USA. Get talking.
The mayo clinic in the USA has had an incredibly successful social media campaign. Focusing on Youtube, they have had nearly 2 million hits. Win!