Can I get a retweet please? Health research recruitment and the Twittersphere

J Adv Nurs. 2014 Mar;70(3):599-609. doi: 10.1111/jan.12222. Epub 2013 Aug 4.


Aim: To evaluate the social networking site Twitter™ as a vehicle for recruitment in online health research and to examine how the Twitter community would share information: the focus of our study was the antenatal experience of mothers of advanced maternal age.

Background: One result of growth in worldwide Internet and mobile phone usage is the increased ability to source health information online and to use social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. Although social media have been used in previous health research, there is a lack of literature on the use of Twitter in health research.

Design: A cross-sectional survey.

Method: We report a novel recruitment method via a social networking site between May and August 2012. Through a Twitter account, we tweeted and requested other Twitter users to retweet our invitation to be involved in the study. Tweets contained a unique URL directing participants to an online survey hosted on the Survey Monkey™ website.

Findings: Over 11 weeks, 749 original tweets were posted by the researcher. A total of 529 mothers accessed the survey as a result of 359 researcher tweets and subsequent retweets that were seen by Twitter users. The survey was fully completed by 299 (56·5%) participants.

Conclusion: Twitter is a cost-effective means of recruitment, enabling engagement with potentially difficult-to-reach populations, providing participants with transparency, anonymity and a more accessible method by which to participate in health research.

Keywords: health; nurses; online; research; social media; social networking.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Services Research*
  • Internet
  • Social Media*
  • United Kingdom