Craigslist and Patient Recruitment

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Founded in the same year as Ebay (1995) Craigslist has been around for a while and has become many individual’s go-to place for searching for everything local from jobs, housing, to secondhand purchases.

It’s no surprise with the ability to search for local work opportunities that research sites have utilized the platform for patient recruitment. Nearby candidates can easily find a study opportunity in hopes of compensation and use Craigslist as a jumping off point to the world of clinical research – but is this platform really as great as it seems? Keep reading and we’ll give you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly side of using this platform for your patient recruitment.

The Good

There are many things that make Craigslist a fantastic platform, first and foremost: it’s inexpensive. For a low price, you can post your study and if you even get one patient from that listing, you’ll look like a marketing genius.

The other, more intangible pieces of Craigslists benefits come from the types of users and the UX (user experience) one has when using the platform.

Location: Since Craigslist operates on a county-by-county basis, the people who navigate to your listing are most likely in or around your area – yay!

Duration: All posts on Craiglist operate the same way as a Facebook newsfeed, if no one posts, then the most recent listing sits right there at the top no matter how much time has passed. This is a great feature compared to other platforms like Facebook Ads, TV, or Radio where you pay for a certain position and, once that elapses, no one can rewind to find your post.

Motivated Patients: The last benefit we’ll mention is the fact that to access your post a patient most likely typed in a search term. If a patient is searching specifically for an indication or medical research in general, that is usually a good indicator that the subject is motivated to join a trial and will most likely be trustworthy (we know this isn’t always the case and will discuss the opposite sides of this below).

The Bad

Almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? We’ll, that’s because it is. For every great attribute Craigslist presents there are other aspects of the platform that require further consideration.

General Searches: While patients can find your study through a specific keyword search there is a chance that they accessed your listing by navigating to a general ‘gigs’ or ‘jobs’ section of the platform. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but, more often than not, people need frequent exposure to an idea prior to taking a plunge – especially for something like a medical research study. Meaning these random inquiries could be more of a headache to your site that result in no-show appointments and frustration.

Money Motivated: In the same vein as the last point, anyone who stumbles across a post in a ‘gig’ or ‘job’ section is typically looking for one thing: a way to earn money. This, again, isn’t inherently bad but it can lead to patients who are more willing to ‘shop around’ at other sites or skip an appointment if a better opportunity arises.

The Ugly

What is the outcome of those potentially bad attributes? The professional patient. While many of our best sites work with the same patients on many studies year after year, that’s not what we’re talking about here. The ugly part of Craigslist is the patient who is gaming the system and joining potentially multiple studies across sites simply for compensation. Not only does this lead to bad data but it hurts the perception of clinical research and the benefits it provides – and that is very Ugly.

The Takeaway

With all of this said, is Craigslist right for your site?

As with anything, it should be a tool in your belt to call upon when needed. To use it effectively you’ll need to be adept at marketing to make sure your language, patient funnel, and sign-up process are thorough and can offset some of the potential negatives of the platform.

Like any other advertising platform, Craigslist can be used to find quality patients if you know how to use it properly – but proceed with caution. Using it the wrong way by spamming your study listings, focusing on compensation, etc. can lead to professional patients taking advantage of your site, damaging the reputation of medical research, or those frustrating no-show appointments.

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