Cost and effectiveness of using Facebook advertising to recruit young women for research: PREFER (Contraceptive Preferences Study) experience

Edwina McCarthy, Danielle Mazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Social media is a popular and convenient method for communicating on the Web. The most commonly used social networking website, Facebook, is increasingly being used as a tool for recruiting research participants because of its large user base and its ability to target advertisements on the basis of Facebook users’ information. Objective: We evaluated the cost and effectiveness of using Facebook to recruit young women into a Web-based intervention study (PREFER). The PREFER study aimed to determine whether an educational video could increase preference for and uptake of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). Methods: We placed an advertisement on Facebook over a 19-day period from December 2017 to January 2018, inviting 16-to 25-year-old women from Australia to participate in a Web-based study about contraception. Those who clicked on the advertisement were directed to project information, and their eligibility was determined by using a screening survey. Results: Our Facebook advertisement delivered 130,129 impressions, resulting in over 2000 clicks at an overall cost of Aus $918 (Aus $0.44 per click). Web-based project information was accessed by 493 women. Of these, 462 women completed the screening survey, and 437 (437/463, 95%) women were eligible. A total of 322 young women participated in Surveys 1 and 2 (74% response rate), and 284 women participated in Survey 3 (88% retention rate), with an advertising cost of Aus $2.85 per consenting participant. Conclusions: Facebook proved to be a quick, effective, and cost-efficient tool for recruiting young Australian women into a study that was investigating contraceptive preferences. However, Web-based recruitment may result in sociodemographic biases. Further research is required to evaluate whether Facebook is suitable for recruiting older study populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15869
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019


  • Facebook
  • Internet
  • Intervention study
  • Patient education
  • Recruitment
  • Social media

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