Apparently not all of my ideas are brilliant. Nor are they all fully successful. Digital Engagement Committee Chair Dr. Don Dizon says it best: Our private Facebook group was akin to a clinical trial. There was the intriguing hypothesis: If we create a Facebook page just for SWOG Cancer Research Network members, could we spark cross-disciplinary talk about our trials?

The answer, 21 months after launch, is no – or at least not enough to make a clinically significant difference. And so, the Facebook group, SWOG Oncology, will shut down at the end of the month. In the end, it was a negative trial.

Yet I consider the project to represent a good learning experience.

Led by our digital engagement committee and funded by a grant from The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research, the project offered a novel solution to a long-standing SWOG problem – insufficiently connecting our members. How can a prevention investigator talk with a breast committee member? How can clinical research associates engage with investigators, and patient advocates with pharmacists? Aside from opportunities arising at our semi-annual live meetings, it’s easy to get stuck in our silos.

Attracting members wasn’t a problem. We had nearly 300 in the SWOG Oncology Facebook group. And it wasn’t as if people didn’t post. They did. They shared fun conference photos, provocative journal articles, press releases, grant opportunities, blog posts.

But we couldn’t seem to get conversations started about our SWOG trials – sharing success stories, giving advice on challenges, talking about the latest science or trial designs. And we didn’t have diverse, consistent member participation – a key success metric for the pilot.

That’s why the digital engagement committee last month voted unanimously to close the page. Some lessons: Engaging all audiences on social media is difficult. Facebook, done right, takes money and time. If you build it, they do come – but once they’re there, they may not engage in the way you hoped they would.

A few benefits have still sprung from all this. Digital engagement members can focus more on Twitter, the SWOG platform that is a slam-dunk success with more than 5,500 followers.  They also know SWOG needs a cross-platform social media strategy, which they’re working on.

So, if you’re not doing so already, follow us on Twitter, connect with us on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our YouTube channel. And look for a social media plan in early 2019 that will set a clear direction for SWOG social platforms and content in the years to come.