Social media as a platform for recruitment to a national survey during the COVID-19 pandemic: Feasibility and cost analysis

Publication Name

JMIR Formative Research


Background: With improved accessibility to social media globally, health researchers are capitalizing on social media platforms to recruit participants for research studies. This has particularly been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, when researchers were not able to use traditional methods of recruitment. Nevertheless, there is limited evidence on the feasibility of social media for recruiting a national sample. Objective: This paper describes the use of social media as a tool for recruiting a national sample of adults to a web-based survey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Between August and October 2020, participants were recruited through Facebook via two advertisement campaigns (paid option and no-cost option) into a web-based survey exploring the relationship between social determinants of health and well-being of adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were analyzed using SPSS software and Facebook metrics that were autogenerated by Facebook Ads Manager. Poststratification weights were calculated to match the Australian population on the basis of gender, age, and state or territory based on the 2016 Australian census data. Results: In total, 9594 people were reached nationally with the paid option and potentially 902,000 people were reached through the no-cost option, resulting in a total of 1211 survey responses. The total cost of the advertisement campaign was Aus $649.66 (US $489.23), resulting in an overall cost per click of Aus $0.25 (US $0.19). Conclusions: Facebook is a feasible and cost-effective method of recruiting participants for a web-based survey, enabling recruitment of population groups that are considered hard to reach or marginalized. Recruitment through Facebook facilitated diversity, with participants varying in socioeconomic status, geographical location, educational attainment, and age.

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