The effectiveness of social media in recruiting volunteers for HIV vaccine trials

Published: July 18, 2010

The effectiveness of social media in recruiting volunteers for HIV vaccine trials

S. Im, S. Alexander

HIV Vaccine Trials Network, Communications, Seattle, United States

Issues: The growth of social media (blogs, networking sites, video sharing) has dramatically increased in recent years. Over 80% of Americans now use social media. The HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) has enhanced its Web outreach through active participation in social media.

Description: In 2009, HVTN developed www.hopetakesaction.org to raise awareness of HIV vaccine research and to recruit men who have sex with men (MSM) for a Phase 2 vaccine efficacy study. To drive traffic to the site, banner ads were placed on MSM-oriented websites. HVTN also engaged potential volunteers through social media, using Facebook pages, Twitter updates and blogs. Web traffic from all sources was closely monitored. The quality of the Web visits was measured by how much time people spent on the site and how many viewers filled out the contact form to express interest in volunteering.

Lessons learned: Banners on MSM dating websites draw the most viewers to Hopetakesaction.org. However, the audiences from social media spend more quality time reading the site and are more interested in volunteering. Hopetakesaction.org received 15048 visits during the period of November 2009-January 2010. Most viewers (70%) came from MSM dating websites. Far fewer came from Facebook (3.2%), blogs (.4%) and Twitter (.2%). People who came from Facebook spent three times as long on the site than those who came from dating sites, and viewers from blogs and Twitter spent four times as long. Viewers from social media were also more likely to express interest in volunteering. Only 3.6% of viewers from MSM oriented sites sent in their contact information, versus 9% Facebook viewers; 5.6% blogs; 19.4% Twitter.

Next steps: HVTN will fine-tune its presence in social networking sites, develop videos and reach out to more bloggers. The network will continue to monitor the effectiveness of such strategies and adjust the approaches as needed.

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