Targeted Facebook advertising is a novel and effective method of recruiting participants into a Human Papillomavirus vaccine effectiveness study

Asvini K Subasinghe, Margaret Nguyen, John D Wark, Sepehr N. Tabrizi, Suzanne M Garland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Targeted advertising using social networking sites (SNS) as a recruitment strategy in health research is in its infancy. Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of targeted Facebook advertisements to increase recruitment of unvaccinated women into a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine effectiveness study. Methods: Between September 2011 and November 2013, females aged 18 to 25 years, residing in Victoria, Australia, were recruited through Facebook advertisements relating to general women’s health. From November 2013 to June 2015, targeted advertising campaigns were implemented to specifically recruit women who had not received the HPV vaccine. Consenting participants were invited to complete an online questionnaire and those who had ever had sexual intercourse were asked to provide a self-collected vaginal swab. The HPV vaccination status of participants was confirmed from the National HPV Vaccination Program Register (NHVPR). Results: The campaign comprised 10 advertisements shown between September 2011 and June 2015 which generated 55,381,637 impressions, yielding 23,714 clicks, at an overall cost of AUD $22,078.85. A total of 919 participants were recruited. A greater proportion of unvaccinated women (50.4%, 131/260) were recruited into the study following targeted advertising, compared with those recruited (19.3%, 127/659) prior to showing the modified advertisement (P<.001). A greater proportion of the total sample completed tertiary education and resided in inner regional Victoria, compared with National population census data (P<.001), but was otherwise representative of the general population. Conclusions: Targeted Facebook advertising is a rapid and cost-effective way of recruiting young unvaccinated women into a HPV vaccine effectiveness study.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere154
Number of pages8
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • online recruitment
  • social media
  • Facebook
  • human papillomavirus
  • HPV

Cite this