Sunday, March 15, 2009

social media & hard-to-reach audiences

 Any box officer manager can tell you there's a method to getting a crowd organized into an orderly line of people heading into the doors to become your audience. But what if your audience is difficult to reach--far-flung geographically, not in touch with your normal methods of communication, or just out of your grasp? Some observers are finding that various types of social media -- from networks like Facebook to messaging services like Twitter -- can get the crowds coming toward you, if not lined up neatly. Given the recent rapid growth in social networks, blogs and Twitter (which grew 30 percent last month alone), you may find that a previously elusive audience is not only using social media, but self-identifying so you can find them.

One emerging example: Pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits and others are recruiting patients for clinical trials of new treatments. Newsweek looks at the pros and cons of using social media to recruit patients for trials, noting that social networks can reach patients in far-flung areas and amass large cadres of potential research subjects, like the Susan Love/Avon Army of Women -- almost a quarter-million women who are willing to volunteer for research on breast cancer risk factors, gathered in just a few months since the site's launch in November 2008. If you want to try using Twitter to recruit clinical trial research subjects, check out these top 10 tips for doing so from Carmen R. Gonzalez, the Manager of Strategy and Communications at Healthcare Communications Group, a firm that recruits trial participants.

What audiences are you looking for? I'm looking for your examples of how you've found, stumbled upon or recruited a previously hidden audience using social media as a communications tool. Share your examples in the comments.

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