Aims: A substantial challenge facing multicentre audit and research projects is timely recruitment of collaborators and their study centres. Cost-effective strategies are required and fee-free social media has previously been identified as a potential conduit. We investigated and evaluated the effectiveness of a novel multi-format social media and Internet strategy for targeted recruitment to a national multicentre cohort study.
Methods: Interventions involved a new Twitter account, including weekly live question-and-answer sessions, a new Facebook group page, online YouTube presentations and an information page on a national association website. Link tracking analysis was undertaken using Google Analytics, which was then related to subsequent registration. Social influence was calculated using the proprietary Klout score.
Results: Internet traffic analysis identified a total of 1562 unique registration site views, of which 285 originated from social media (18.2%). Some 528 unique registrations were received, with 96 via social media platforms (18.2%). Traffic source analysis identified a separate national association webpage as resulting in the majority of registration page views (15.8%), followed by Facebook (11.9%), Twitter (4.8%) and YouTube (1.5%). A combination of publicity through Facebook, Twitter and the dedicated national association webpage contributed to the greatest rise in registration traffic and accounted for 312 (48%) of the total registrations within a 2-week period. A Twitter 'social influence' (Klout) score of 42/100 was obtained during this period.
Conclusions: Targeted social media substantially aided study dissemination and collaborator recruitment. It acted as an adjunct to traditional methods, accounting for 18.2% of collaborator registration in a short time period with no associated financial costs. We provide a practical model for designing future recruitment campaigns, and recommend Facebook, Twitter and targeted websites as the most effective adjuncts for maximising cost-effective study recruitment.