J. Med. Internet Res. - Beyond traditional advertisements: leveraging Facebook's social structures for research recruitment.


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CKGROUND: Obtaining access to a demographically and geographically diverse sample for health-related research can be costly and time consuming. Previous studies have reported mixed results regarding the potential of using social media-based advertisements to overcome these challenges.OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to develop and assess the feasibility, benefits, and challenges of recruiting for research studies related to consumer health information technology (IT) by leveraging the social structures embedded in the social networking platform, Facebook.METHODS: Two recruitment strategies that involved direct communication with existing Facebook groups and pages were developed and implemented in two distinct populations. The first recruitment strategy involved posting a survey link directly to consenting groups and pages and was used to recruit Filipino-Americans to a study assessing the perceptions, use of, and preferences for consumer health IT. This study took place between August and December 2013. The second recruitment strategy targeted individuals with type 2 diabetes and involved creating a study-related Facebook group and asking administrators of other groups and pages to publicize our group to their members. Group members were then directly invited to participate in an online pre-study survey. This portion of a larger study to understand existing health management practices as a foundation for consumer health IT design took place between May and June 2014. In executing both recruitment strategies, efforts were made to establish trust and transparency. Recruitment rate, cost, content of interaction, and characteristics of the sample obtained were used to assess the recruitment methods.RESULTS: The two recruitment methods yielded 87 and 79 complete responses, respectively. The first recruitment method yielded a rate of study completion proportionate to that of the rate of posts made, whereas recruitment successes of the second recruitment method seemed to follow directly from the actions of a subset of administrators. Excluding personnel time, the first recruitment method resulted in no direct costs, and the second recruitment method resulted in a total direct cost of US $118.17. Messages, posts, and comments received using both recruitment strategies reflected ten themes, including appreciation, assistance, clarification, concerns, encouragement, health information, interest, promotion, solicitations, and support. Both recruitment methods produced mixed results regarding sample representativeness with respect to characteristics such as gender, race, and ethnicity.CONCLUSIONS: The results of the study demonstrate that leveraging the social structures of Facebook for health-related research was feasible for obtaining small samples appropriate for qualitative research but not for obtaining large samples needed for quantitative research. The content of interactions with members of the target population prompted ethical deliberations concerning suitable target communities and appropriate boundaries between researchers and participants. Widespread replication of this method would benefit from a broad discussion among researchers, social media users, social media companies, and experts in research ethics to address appropriate protocols for such interactions.

Resumo Limpo

ckground obtain access demograph geograph divers sampl healthrel research can cost time consum previous studi report mix result regard potenti use social mediabas advertis overcom challengesobject aim develop assess feasibl benefit challeng recruit research studi relat consum health inform technolog leverag social structur embed social network platform facebookmethod two recruit strategi involv direct communic exist facebook group page develop implement two distinct popul first recruit strategi involv post survey link direct consent group page use recruit filipinoamerican studi assess percept use prefer consum health studi took place august decemb second recruit strategi target individu type diabet involv creat studyrel facebook group ask administr group page public group member group member direct invit particip onlin prestudi survey portion larger studi understand exist health manag practic foundat consum health design took place may june execut recruit strategi effort made establish trust transpar recruit rate cost content interact characterist sampl obtain use assess recruit methodsresult two recruit method yield complet respons respect first recruit method yield rate studi complet proportion rate post made wherea recruit success second recruit method seem follow direct action subset administr exclud personnel time first recruit method result direct cost second recruit method result total direct cost us messag post comment receiv use recruit strategi reflect ten theme includ appreci assist clarif concern encourag health inform interest promot solicit support recruit method produc mix result regard sampl repres respect characterist gender race ethnicityconclus result studi demonstr leverag social structur facebook healthrel research feasibl obtain small sampl appropri qualit research obtain larg sampl need quantit research content interact member target popul prompt ethic deliber concern suitabl target communiti appropri boundari research particip widespread replic method benefit broad discuss among research social media user social media compani expert research ethic address appropri protocol interact

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