Responding to Comments on Facebook Ads for Clinical Trials

Once you’ve launched your Facebook Ads campaign aimed at generating patients for clinical trials, you’ll want to monitor the Comments that people make on the Ads quite closely. Otherwise, you could find performance deteriorating in response to a negative comment. (Or even miss a positive comment that you’ll be able to use for other purposes, such as a testimonial). Here’s how to go about responding to Comments on your Facebook Ads.

Negative Comments on Facebook Ads

In my experience, these are the most likely types of Comments you’ll receive. For some reason the healthcare arena – and promotion of clinical trials in particular – seems to attract people who want to make negative and derogatory Comments about the content of the Ads you’re promoting.

You might wonder why you should be bothered about these comments. Unfortunately, it can setup a spiral of diminishing returns if one negative comment leads to more and more in a similar vein – or even just one comment could be damaging enough to put people off clicking through from your ads. (For example, references to previous ‘trials gone bad’ or suggestions that people would be putting their lives at risk by participating).

Reputation is obviously a major factor in getting people to trust you with their health and well-being, so having other people talk in a way that can diminish your reputation is clearly not a good thing.

So what are the options for handling negative comments on your ads?

1) Hide the Comments – this is a ‘quick and easy’ method of preventing other people seeing the comments on your ads. What this will do is hide the comment from everyone but the original commenter and the people they are connected to. (ie it doesn’t fully hide the comment, but it certainly reduces the number of people who might see it by a very large percentage).

I actually don’t recommend you do this – save for circumstances where there is no option and the favoured method wouldn’t be beneficial either. The favoured method being:

2) Respond to the Comments – ideally you’ll be prepared with a rejoinder to any negative comments that both rebuts the accusation in the comment and sets you up as being trustworthy and the type of people other Facebook users are happy to listen to. (Remaining professional and courteous is obviously a key requisite here!).

This response is the equivalent of handling a ‘bad news story’ in the best possible way from a PR perspective, rather than making things worse by ignoring it or putting out misinformation to try and ‘cover your tracks’.

So-Called Humorous Comments

Somewhat unbelievably, some of the Facebook Ad campaigns I’ve been involved with to promote clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease have attracted ‘humorous’ comments, along the lines of “I can’t remember if I’ve applied or not”.

I haven’t come across this type of thing with other types of trials, but it’s not inconceivable that these ‘Facebook wags’ would make similarly inappropriate comments on adverts referencing other conditions – such as COPD, psoriasis etc.

What’s the best response to these types of comments?

1) One approach is to leave it to the Facebook community themselves. Whenever there have been ‘humorous’ comments made on the Alzheimer’s-related adverts I’ve been involved with, other Facebook users have responded from their own point of view – expressing their disgust and describing their own experience of the disease. Often this will result in a reprimand for the poster of the original comment, or a message along the lines of ‘I sincerely hope you don’t suffer from the effects of this disease yourself, but if you or someone close to you ever does, you’ll realise how inappropriate your flippancy is in the face of this destructive disease’.

2) Another method might be to respond yourselves in a manner that expresses the same kind of sentiment as outlined in the first approach above, but based on a more professional medical set of facts and statements. For example, including statistics and facts about the condition and highlighting that memory loss is simply the most well-known of the symptoms – going on to explain the effects of the deterioration in brain function and how ultimately the situation is really no laughing matter.

If you have suitable content on your website – in the form of explanatory articles and / or videos – it would make sense to link to this from your response.

Positive Comments About People’s Experiences

From the above couple of sections, you might imagine that people who post comments on Facebook ads are the equivalent of ‘Twitter trolls’, scouring the internet looking for something bad to say. But that really isn’t the case on Facebook. You’ll probably find that a decent proportion of the comments you receive for your clinical trials ads are positive in nature.

I’ve come across plenty of responses along the lines of ‘I attended this clinic and was treated very well, with a thorough explanation of the process and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere’.

What might be the best approach for responding to positive comments?

1) Responding directly on the comment itself – in the manner of a hotel manager responding to a positive comment on TripAdvisor – can help establish your organisation as one that cares about the people it deals with. Plus it makes the original poster feel good about having made the comment.

2) Sending a direct message to the poster of the comment can also be beneficial. You might, for example, request that they share the original advert (which will include their comment underneath) with their contacts – thus helping spread the word about the trial.

Or you might take this a step further and initiate a dialogue with the person who posted the positive comment, encouraging them to maybe give you a testimonial for your website or perhaps even eventually become a ‘patient advocate’ who helps promote trials on your behalf.

Conclusion – Responding is Better than Ignoring

In every circumstance, it’s always better to ‘take the bull by the horns’ and respond to relevant comments – good or bad – instead of ignoring them. On the one hand you can help build your reputation and counteract the negative image some people might have of clinical trials and your organisation. On the other hand you can potentially develop a relationship with people who might be of benefit for helping to promote your trials in the future.

If you have a question regarding responding to comments on your clinical trials Facebook Ads – get in touch for a quick chat about what I might recommend based on my experience in the field.