Social media recruitment and online data collection: A beginner's guide and best practices for accessing low-prevalence and hard-to-reach populations

David B. King, Norm O'Rourke, Anita De Longis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations

Abstract

One facet of the growing social media phenomenon is the opportunity to directly appeal to prospective research participants. An example of this is Facebook advertising to defined populations. In conjunction with online data collection, social media advertising can simplify and accelerate data collection, and it can do so at greatly reduced costs. Thanks to these contemporary tools, responses can be collected at the same time from participants living in Vancouver, Toronto, and St. John's. In this article, we describe how social media can be used for rapid and cost-effective data collection. Moreover, these methods allow researchers to directly access prospective study participants who may be otherwise difficult to reach (because of their low prevalence, their remote location, or organisational barriers). For illustrative purposes, we review methods from 2 studies: 1 of older adults with bipolar disorder and 1 of Canadian paramedics and their spouses. In both cases, participants clicked sociodemographically targeted Facebook advertisements and were directed to online study questionnaires. Based primarily on these 2 lines of research, we offer recommendations and best practices for researchers interested in utilizing social media for online recruitment and data collection. We contend that in many instances, social media may be the most effective means to recruit participants from low-prevalence and invisible populations. The majority of Canadians, and indeed much more of the world population than was previously accessible, can be reached via social media today. In addition to offering strategies to improve participant communication, we also review the limitations of social media advertising and online research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-249
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Psychology
Volume55
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Data collection
  • Facebook
  • Participant recruitment
  • Social media
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)

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