Use of online recruitment strategies in a randomized trial of cancer survivors

Stephen P. Juraschek, Timothy B. Plante, Jeanne B Charleston, Edgar R Miller, Hsin Chieh Yeh, Lawrence Appel, Gerald J. Jerome, Debra Gayles, Nowella Durkin, Karen White, Arlene Dalcin, Manuel Hermosilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background/Aims: Despite widespread Internet adoption, online advertising remains an underutilized tool to recruit participants into clinical trials. Whether online advertising is a cost-effective method to enroll participants compared to other traditional forms of recruitment is not known. Methods: Recruitment for the Survivorship Promotion In Reducing IGF-1 Trial, a community-based study of cancer survivors, was conducted from June 2015 through December 2016 via in-person community fairs, advertisements in periodicals, and direct postal mailings. In addition, “Right Column” banner ads were purchased from Facebook to direct participants to the Survivorship Promotion In Reducing IGF-1 Trial website. Response rates, costs of traditional and online advertisements, and demographic data were determined and compared across different online and traditional recruitment strategies. Micro-trials optimizing features of online advertisements were also explored. Results: Of the 406 respondents to our overall outreach efforts, 6% (24 of 406) were referred from online advertising. Facebook advertisements were shown over 3 million times (impressions) to 124,476 people, which resulted in 4401 clicks on our advertisement. Of these, 24 people ultimately contacted study staff, 6 underwent prescreening, and 4 enrolled in the study. The cost of online advertising per enrollee was $794 when targeting a general population versus $1426 when accounting for strategies that specifically targeted African Americans or men. By contrast, community fairs, direct mail, or periodicals cost $917, $799, or $436 per enrollee, respectively. Utilization of micro-trials to assess online ads identified subtleties (e.g. use of an advertisement title) that substantially impacted viewer interest in our trial. Conclusion: Online advertisements effectively directed a relevant population to our website, which resulted in new enrollees in the Survivorship Promotion In Reducing IGF-1 Trial at a cost comparable to traditional methods. Costs were substantially greater with online recruitment when targeting under-represented populations, however. Additional research using online micro-trial tools is needed to evaluate means of more precise recruitment to improve yields in under-represented groups. Potential gains from faster recruitment speed remain to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClinical Trials
StateAccepted/In press - Dec 1 2017



  • Facebook
  • Internet
  • online
  • recruitment
  • trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

Cite this