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Using social media to engage potential participants, sites and site staff in trials can be really helpful to increase awareness of clinical research and, of course, the trial itself.

Twitter can be daunting if it’s your first time on there, but it’s actually super simple and does not have to be laborious to set up or maintain. A little-and-often approach can pay dividends in terms of how many people you reach and keep engaged.

How do I get it all set up?

Firstly, when creating your account, think of a short, relevant username. Shorter usernames allow more characters per tweet. Look at what other trials in the unit have done – don’t reinvent the wheel where possible.

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Follow the Twitter for SITU, OCTRU, other trials, your sites, your CI and PIs and research staff where possible. Making these networks will help you to reach more people with your tweets!

To manage all of these people, consider creating “lists”, such as Sites/Trials/Oxford Research (these can also be marked as private). This can help you keep track of which site has which accounts – very useful if you want to name check a specific account!

What do I say?

Now you’re all set and ready to tweet, but what to say?

Much of this depends on your audience. If you are talking to participants/potential participants and patients, the “tone” of the account should be aimed at them and their interests, as opposed to an account talking to sites, site staff and related clinicians. The language you use in each should reflect the audience, e.g. a lay audience will appreciate less complex medical terms than if you’re exclusively tweeting to orthopaedic surgeons.

Keep it short and to the point – you have a 280 character limit, so be succinct with your words. If you do go into more than one tweet (called “creating a thread”) reply to yourself each time, this will allow all the tweets to be linked when viewed.

Be funny if it’s appropriate! You want your tweets to be engaging and friendly, and upbeat where possible.

Use pictures or gifs! Twitter on mobile, or on the web will let you search and use gifs, (Tweetdeck does not currently support gifs). A tweet with a gif is often more memorable and can add a warm tone. But do check that the gif you use isn’t of something/someone controversial – you don’t want to go viral for all the wrong reasons!

Get your # game on! Use of hashtags (#) will help people to find your tweets. #SurgicalTrials #ClinicalResearch are common ones, but if you are at an event, or are tweeting regarding a larger event like the SITU favourite, the Great British Bake Off, use their established hashtag: #GBBO

Don’t @me! Or rather – do! Remember to mention the Twitter usernames of some of the accounts you are talking about, or SITU (@SITU_Oxford) and OCTRU (@OCTRUctu), by mentioning others, you’re making your tweet visible to their followers too, and much easier for them to retweet you!

Now what?

Some other general advice:

  • Don’t tweet too much – people will unfollow you if you fill up their timeline! If you have lots to say, stagger the tweets, or create a thread by replying to your original tweet.
  • Engage with other people – like and retweet things from other trials or collaborators. It will incline them to do the same for you!
  • Don’t be controversial. Always hard online, especially on Twitter, but keep it light!
  • Don’t forget to check it – it’s easy to forget all about it once the trial is up and running, but it can be a way to keep interest in a trial from both sites and clinicians in that area.
  • Be creative, you only have 140 characters, get the thesaurus out if you need to shave a character off to fit your message in!
  • Put your username in your trial email signature and on your trial website – you’d be surprised how many people follow from clicking on those.