Background: In 2012, we set out to recruit a cohort of at least 10,000 women aged 18-23 from across Australia. With recent research demonstrating the inadequacy of traditional approaches to recruiting women in this age group, we elected to conduct open recruiting.
Objective: Our aim was to report on the overall success of open recruiting and to evaluate the relative success of a variety of recruitment methods in terms of numbers and demographics.
Methods: We used referrals, Facebook, formal advertising, and incentives in order to recruit the cohort.
Results: In all, 17,069 women were recruited for the longitudinal online survey, from 54,685 initiated surveys. Of these women, most (69.94%, n=11,799) who joined the longitudinal cohort were recruited via Facebook, 12.72% (n=2145) via the fashion promotion, 7.02% (n=1184) by referral, 4.9% (n=831) via other Web activities, and 5.4% (n=910) via traditional media.
Conclusions: Facebook was by far the most successful strategy, enrolling a cohort of women with a similar profile to the population of Australian women in terms of age, area of residence, and relationship status. Women recruited via fashion promotion were the least representative. All strategies underrepresented less educated women-a finding that is consistent with more traditional means of recruiting. In conclusion, flexibility in recruitment design, embracing new and traditional media, adopting a dynamic responsive approach, and monitoring the results of recruiting in terms of sample composition and number recruited led to the successful establishment of a new cohort.
Keywords: cohort studies; longitudinal studies; social media; women’s health.