Journal Preview: Getting Started with Using Social Media to Recruit Research Participants


So, you (or someone above you) thinks it’s finally time for your study site to start recruiting participants through social media instead of continuing to count on print and radio ads, fliers, physician referrals, returning patients, and word of mouth to carry the day for your enrollment goals. Great…but how does one actually start doing that?

In the forthcoming April 2020 issue of ACRP’s Clinical Researcher journal, authors Deaven A. Hough, MA, and Elizabeth Flood-Grady, PhD, MS, both at the University of Florida (UF), examine how recruiting participants into research studies is one of the most difficult challenges faced by research professionals.

To best leverage these new tools and tactics for reaching potential trial subjects, Hough, a recruitment specialist with the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), says, “UF has developed guidelines for recruitment on social media and launched a Facebook page, UF Studies, as a central channel for recruitment advertising and general information about study participation.”

In 2016, UF identified the need for a coordinated approach to address privacy, information security, and other questions pertaining to institutional review board submissions to enable researchers to use social media in an ethical and compliant way to recruit research participants.

“Social media have generated a great deal of enthusiasm as recruitment tools, but simply planning to ‘post on social media’ isn’t enough to effectively and ethically recruit participants,” notes Flood-Grady, a postdoctoral associate specializing in translational health communication, mixed methods, and dissemination.

To harness the power of social media for study recruitment, UF’s CTSI facilitated a committee and workgroup that endeavored to establish guidelines on how teams and institutions can ethically and effectively use social media channels for recruitment.

For the full special feature on the work that went into meeting this challenge, and other valuable articles and columns themed on patient recruitment, retention, and engagement, you can visit the Clinical Researcher landing page to find the April issue starting around the middle of this month. You will also find archives of all the journal’s current online content there.

Author: Gary W. Cramer