Social media and internet driven study recruitment: evaluating a new model for promoting collaborator engagement and participation

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 16;10(3):e0118899. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118899. eCollection 2015.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic / methods
  • Patient Selection*
  • Social Media*

Grant support

The Royal College of Surgeons (England) provided the venue for the national collaborators’ meeting free of charge. A Regional Event Grant was received from the Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) as a contribution to the costs of the national collaborators’ meeting. No further funding was applied for or received. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.