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Transl Behav Med. 2015 Sep;5(3):254-9. doi: 10.1007/s13142-015-0312-5.

Recruitment of adolescents for a smoking study: use of traditional strategies and social media.

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Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 245, San Francisco, CA 94118 USA.
Stanford Prevention Research Center, Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA USA.


Engaging and retaining adolescents in research studies is challenging. Social media offers utility for expanding the sphere of research recruitment. This study examined and compared traditional and Facebook-based recruitment strategies on reach, enrollment, cost, and retention. Substance users aged 13-17 years were recruited through several methods, including social media, a study website, fliers, talks in schools, bus ads, and referrals. Study involvement included a one-time visit and semiannual follow-up surveys. 1265 individuals contacted study personnel; 629 were ineligible; 129 declined; and 200 participants enrolled. Facebook drew the greatest volume but had a high rate of ineligibles. Referrals were the most successful and cost-effective ($7 per enrolled participant); school talks were the least. Recruitment source was unrelated to retention success. Facebook may expand recruitment reach, but had greater financial costs and more ineligible contacts, resulting in fewer enrollees relative to traditional interpersonal recruitment methods. Referrals, though useful for study engagement, did not provide a differential benefit in terms of long-term retention.


Adolescence; Recruitment; Social Media; Technology; Traditional

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