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Guidelines for Using Social Media to Recruit Participants in Research Studies

Recruiting participants for health-related research is always a challenge for researchers and often they turn to social media to help them out with advertising and promoting their needs.

But as University of Florida researchers Elizabeth Flood-Grady, Lauren B. Solberg, Claire Baralt, Meghan Meyer, Jeff Stevens, and Janice L. Krieger point out, more regulatory guidance regarding what is acceptable practice is needed. As a result, they have developed policies and procedures that can be easily replicated and allow research teams to utilize social media as a recruitment tool while remaining transparent in their intentions.

The study’s authors recommend prioritizing research education and the dissemination of health and science information to the local community via social media platforms. Social media recruiting templates are recommended for academic teams and institutional research board (IRB) personnel to assist with protocol development and review. They also highlight the importance of staying on top of social media terms of use and agreement to ensure scholarship is complying with terms of the platform, IRB, and all other applicable laws, policies, or guidelines. This compliance is critical for ethical research processes and procedures.

The research focused primarily on Facebook to serve as the initial social media platform for their recruitment protocols. The guidelines can be adapted to other social media channels. However, they recommend identifying diverse audiences and the reach of other social media platforms prior to developing protocols for them and conducting future research on those platforms.

The original article, “Engaging Institutional Stakeholders to Develop and Implement Guidelines for Recruiting Participants in Research Studies Using Social Media: Mixed Methods, Multi-Phase Process,” appeared in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on Aug. 7, 2020.

This summary was written by Dana Hackley, Ph.D.

Posted: November 30, 2021
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