Further understanding is needed of the functionalities and efficiency of social media for health intervention research recruitment. Facebook was examined as a mechanism to recruit young adults for a smoking cessation intervention. An ad campaign targeting young adult smokers tested specific messaging based on market theory and successful strategies used to recruit smokers in previous clinical trials (i.e. informative, call to action, scarcity, social norms), previously successful ads, and general messaging. Images were selected to target smokers (e.g., lit cigarette), appeal to the target age, vary demographically, and vary graphically (cartoon, photo, logo). Facebook's Ads Manager was used over 7 weeks (6/10/13 - 7/29/13), targeted by age (18-25), location (U.S.), and language (English), and employed multiple ad types (newsfeed, standard, promoted posts, sponsored stories) and keywords. Ads linked to the online screening survey or study Facebook page. The 36 different ads generated 3,198,373 impressions, 5,895 unique clicks, at an overall cost of $2,024 ($0.34/click). Images of smoking and newsfeed ads had the greatest reach and clicks at the lowest cost. Of 5,895 unique clicks, 586 (10%) were study eligible and 230 (39%) consented. Advertising costs averaged $8.80 per eligible, consented participant. The final study sample (n=79) was largely Caucasian (77%) and male (69%), averaging 11 cigarettes/day (SD=8.3) and 2.7 years smoking (SD=0.7). Facebook is a useful, cost-effective recruitment source for young adult smokers. Ads posted via newsfeed posts were particularly successful, likely because they were viewable via mobile phone. Efforts to engage more ethnic minorities, young women, and smokers motivated to quit are needed.
Keywords: Facebook; participant recruitment; smoking cessation; social media; tobacco; young adult.