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Social Media Platforms: Recruitment and Intervention Tool

Use of social media as a recruitment tool for research participation is a rapidly emerging research methodology that has demonstrated excellent potential for expediting research in multiple types areas of health behavior, including substance use disorders. Moreover, some studies have integrated social media platforms into research protocols either as data collection tools, or platforms for data collection or intervention. Provided here is a list of resource materials related to the use of social media platforms as a recruitment and intervention platform, including relevant scientific articles and protocol materials. The purpose of this resource is to facilitate research and help standardize methods used to recruit and engage participants via social media platforms.

Social Media Recruitment

Tutorial on Facebook advertising mechanics. Borodovsky JT. Clinical Trials Network - Northeast Node, Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. Lebanon, NH. March 2018.

Antoun C, Zhang C, Conrad FG, Schober MF. Comparisons of Online Recruitment Strategies for Convenience Samples:Craigslist, Google AdWords, Facebook, and Amazon Mechanical Turk. Field Methods. 2016;28(3):231-46

Batterham PJ. Recruitment of mental health survey participants using Internet advertising: content, characteristics and cost effectiveness. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2014 Jun;23(2):184-91. PMID: 24615785. doi: 10.1002/mpr.1421

Baumgartner P, Peiper N. Utilizing Big Data and Twitter to Discover Emergent Online Communities of Cannabis Users. Subst Abuse. 2017 06/06 01/16/received, 04/06/accepted;11:1178221817711425. PMID: 28615950. doi: 10.1177/1178221817711425

Choi I, Milne DN, Glozier N, Peters D, Harvey SB, Calvo RA. Using different Facebook advertisements to recruit men for an online mental health study: Engagement and selection bias. Internet Interventions. 2017;8:27-34

Chu JL, Snider CE. Use of a social networking web site for recruiting Canadian youth for medical research. J Adolesc Health. 2013 Jun;52(6):792-4. PMID: 23352727. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.12.002

Crosier BS, Brian RM, Ben-Zeev D. Using Facebook to Reach People Who Experience Auditory Hallucinations. J Med Internet Res. 2016 Jun 14;18(6):e160. PMID: 27302017. doi: 10.2196/jmir.5420

Gordon JS, Akers L, Severson HH, Danaher BG, Boles SM. Successful participant recruitment strategies for an online smokeless tobacco cessation program. Nicotine Tob Res. 2006;8 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S35-41. PMID: 17491169

Gross MS, Liu NH, Contreras O, Muñoz RF, Leykin Y. Using Google AdWords for International Multilingual Recruitment to Health Research Websites. J Med Internet Res 2014;16(1):e18. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2986. PMID: 24446166. PMCID: 3906699

Harris ML, Loxton D, Wigginton B, Lucke JC. Recruiting online: lessons from a longitudinal survey of contraception and pregnancy intentions of young Australian women. Am J Epidemiol. 2015 May 15;181(10):737-46. PMID: 25883155. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv006

Heffner JL, Wyszynski CM, Comstock B, Mercer LD, Bricker J. Overcoming recruitment challenges of web-based interventions for tobacco use: the case of web-based acceptance and commitment therapy for smoking cessation. Addict Behav. 2013;38(10):2473-6. PMID: 23770645; PMCID: PMC3725211

Jones RB, Goldsmith L, Hewson P, Williams CJ. Recruitment to Online Therapies for Depression: Pilot Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. J Med Internet Res 2013;15(3):e45. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2367. PMID: 23462072. PMCID: PMC3636297

Jones RB, Goldsmith L, Williams CJ, Kamel Boulos MN. Accuracy of geographically targeted internet advertisements on Google AdWords for recruitment in a randomized trial. J Med Internet Res. 2012;14(3):e84. PMID: 22718043; PMCID: PMC3414907

Kapp JM, Peters C, Oliver DP. Research recruitment using Facebook advertising: big potential, big challenges. J Cancer Educ. 2013 Mar;28(1):134-7. PMID: 23292877. doi: 10.1007/s13187-012-0443-z

Kayrouz R, Dear BF, Karin E, Titov N. Facebook as an effective recruitment strategy for mental health research of hard to reach populations. Internet Interventions. 2016;4:1-10

Kosinski M, Matz SC, Gosling SD, Popov V, Stillwell D. Facebook as a research tool for the social sciences: Opportunities, challenges, ethical considerations, and practical guidelines. Am Psychol. 2015 Sep;70(6):543-56. PMID: 26348336. doi: 10.1037/a0039210

McDonnell DD, Lee H-J, Kazinets G, Moskowitz JM. Online Recruitment of Targeted Populations: Lessons Learned from a Smoking Cessation Study among Korean Americans. Social MBearketing Quarterly. 2010;16(3):2-22

Ramo DE, Prochaska JJ. Broad reach and targeted recruitment using Facebook for an online survey of young adult substance use. J Med Internet Res. 2012;14(1):e28. PMID: 22360969; PMCID: PMC3374532

Ramo DE, Prochaska JJ. Prevalence and co-use of marijuana among young adult cigarette smokers: An anonymous online national survey. Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2012;7:5. PMID: 23186143; PMCID: PMC3507655

Ramo DE, Rodriguez TM, Chavez K, Sommer MJ, Prochaska JJ. Facebook Recruitment of Young Adult Smokers for a Cessation Trial: Methods, Metrics, and Lessons Learned. Internet Interv. 2014;1(2):58-64. PMID: 25045624; PMCID: PMC4100621

Thornton L, Batterham PJ, Fassnacht DB, Kay-Lambkin F, Calear AL, Hunt S. Recruiting for health, medical or psychosocial research using Facebook: Systematic review. Internet Interventions. 2016;4:72-81

Thornton LK, Harris K, Baker AL, Johnson M, Kay-Lambkin FJ. Recruiting for addiction research via Facebook. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2016 Jul;35(4):494-502. PMID: 26179224. doi: 10.1111/dar.12305

Tustin JL, Crowcroft NS, Gesink D, Johnson I, Keelan J, Lachapelle B. Facebook Recruitment of Vaccine-Hesitant Canadian Parents: Cross-Sectional Study. JMIR public health and surveillance. 2017 Jul 24;3(3):e47. PMID: 28739557. doi: 10.2196/publichealth.6870

Yuan P, Bare MG, Johnson MO, Saberi P. Using online social media for recruitment of human immunodeficiency virus-positive participants: a cross-sectional survey. J Med Internet Res. 2014 May 01;16(5):e117. PMID: 24784982. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3229


Huesch, M. D., Galstyan, A., Ong, M. K. and Doctor, J. N. (2016), Using Social Media, Online Social Networks, and Internet Search as Platforms for Public Health Interventions: A Pilot Study. Health Serv Res, 51: 1273–1290. doi:10.1111/1475-6773.12496

Pagoto S, Waring ME, May CN, Ding EY, Kunz WH, Hayes R, Oleski JL.  Adapting Behavioral Interventions for Social Media Delivery J Med Internet Res 2016;18(1):e24. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.5086 PMID: 26825969 PMCID: 4752690

Prochaska JJ, Pechmann C, Kim R, Leonhardt JM. Twitter=quitter? An analysis of Twitter quit smoking social networks. Tob Control. 2012;21(4):447-9. PMID: 21730101; PMCID: PMC3310933

Ramo D, Thrul J, Chavez K, Delucchi KL, Prochaska JJ. Feasibility and Quit Rates of the Tobacco Status Project: A Facebook Smoking Cessation Intervention for Young Adults. J Med Internet Res. 2015 Dec 31; 17(12):e291. PMID: 26721211; PMCID: PMC4736286

Ramo DE, Thrul J, Delucchi KL, Ling PM, Hall SM, Prochaska JJ. The Tobacco Status Project (TSP): Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of a Facebook smoking cessation intervention for young adults. BMC Public Health. 2015 Sep 15; 15:897. PMID: 26374203; PMCID: PMC4572690

Rice SM, Goodall J, Hetrick SE, Parker AG, Gilbertson T, Amminger GP, Davey CG, McGorry PD, Gleeson J, Alvarez-Jimenez M. Online and Social Networking Interventions for the Treatment of Depression in Young People: A Systematic Review J Med Internet Res 2014;16(9):e206. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.3304 PMID: 25226790 PMCID: 4180352

Santesteban-Echarri O, Rice S, Wadley G, Lederman R, D'Alfonso S, Russon P, Chambers R, Miles CJ, Gilbertson T, Gleeson JF, McGorry PD, Álvarez-Jiménez M. A next-generation social media-based relapse prevention intervention for youth depression: Qualitative data on user experience outcomes for social networking, safety, and clinical benefit. Internet Interventions. 2017;9:65-73

Struik LL, Baskerville NB. The role of Facebook in Crush the Crave, a mobile- and social media-based smoking cessation intervention: qualitative framework analysis of posts. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(7):e170. PMID: 25016998; PMCID: PMC4115653

Thrul J, Belohlavek A, Hambrick D, Kaur M, Ramo DE. Conducting online focus groups on Facebook to inform health behavior change interventions: Two case studies and lessons learned. Internet Interv. 2017;9:106-11. PMID: 29276693; PMCID: PMC5736138

Thrul J, Klein AB, Ramo DE. Smoking Cessation Intervention on Facebook: Which Content Generates the Best Engagement? J Med Internet Res. 2015 Nov 11; 17(11):e244. PMID: 26561529; PMCID: PMC4704894

Välimäki, M., Athanasopoulou, C., Lahti, M., & Adams, C. E. (2016). Effectiveness of Social Media Interventions for People With Schizophrenia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(4), e92

Welch, V., Petkovic, J., Pardo, J. P., Rader, T., & Tugwell, P. (2016). Interactive social media interventions to promote health equity: an overview of reviews. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada : Research, Policy and Practice, 36(4), 63–75

General / Other

Apolinário-Hagen J, Fritsche L, Bierhals C, Salewski C. Improving attitudes toward e-mental health services in the general population via psychoeducational information material: A randomized controlled trial. Internet Interventions. 2018

Batterham PJ, Calear AL, Farrer L, McCallum SM, Cheng VWS. FitMindKit: Randomised controlled trial of an automatically tailored online program for mood, anxiety, substance use and suicidality. Internet Interventions. 2017

Chiu, C., Menacho, L., & Young, S.D. (2016). The Association Between Age and Ethics-Related Issues in Using Social Media for HIV Prevention in Peru. Ethics and Behavior, 26(2)

Chiu, J., Menacho, L. , Fisher, C., and Young, S.D. (2015). Ethics issues in social media-based HIV prevention in low- and middle-income countries. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 24(3)

Curtis B, Alanis-Hirsch K, Kaynak O, Cacciola J, Meyers K, McLellan AT. Using Web searches to track interest in synthetic cannabinoids (a/k/a 'herbal incense'). Drug Alcohol Rev. 2015;34(1):105-8. PMID: 25196534; PMCID: PMC4412351

Curtis BL. Social networking and online recruiting for HIV research: ethical challenges. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2014;9(1):58-70. PMID: 24572084; PMCID: PMC4316828

Gil, H., Gil, N., & Young, S.D. (In press). A review of the use of social media for health education and behavior change. Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet

Gordon EJ, Shand J, Black A. Google analytics of a pilot mass and social media campaign targeting Hispanics about living kidney donation. Internet Interventions. 2016;6:40-9

Krueger EA, Young SD. Twitter: A Novel Tool for Studying the Health and Social Needs of Transgender Communities. JMIR Ment Health. 2015;2(2). PMID: 26082941; PMCID: PMC4465794

Lattie EG, Ho J, Sargent E, Tomasino KN, Smith JD, Brown CH, Mohr DC. Teens engaged in collaborative health: The feasibility and acceptability of an online skill-building intervention for adolescents at risk for depression. Internet Interventions. 2017;8:15-26

O'Dea B, Wan S, Batterham PJ, Calear AL, Paris C, Christensen H. Detecting suicidality on Twitter. Internet Interventions. 2015;2(2):183-8

Young SD, Cumberland WG, Lee SJ, Jaganath D, Szekeres G, Coates T. Social networking technologies as an emerging tool for HIV prevention: a cluster randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(5):318-24. PMID: 24026317; PMCID: PMC3879120

Young SD, Cumberland WG, Nianogo R, Menacho LA, Galea JT, Coates T. The HOPE social media intervention for global HIV prevention in Peru: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet HIV. 2014;doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(14)00006-X

Young SD, Rivers C, Lewis B. Methods of using real-time social media technologies for detection and remote monitoring of HIV outcomes.Prev Med. 2014;63:112-5

Young SD.  Behavioral insights on big data: using social media for predicting biomedical outcomes. Cell: Trends Microbiol. 2014;22(11):601–2

Young SD. Recommended guidelines on using social networking technologies for HIV prevention research. AIDS Behav. 2012;16(7):1743-5. PMID: 22821067; PMCID: PMC3459230

Young, S.D. (2012). Recommended guidelines on using social networking technologies for HIV prevention research. AIDS and Behavior, 16(7): 1743–1745

Young, SD, & Jaganath, D. (2013). Online social networking for HIV education and prevention: a mixed-methods analysis.  Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 40(2), 163-167