Social media as a recruitment platform for a nationwide online survey of COVID-19 knowledge, beliefs, and practices in the United States: methodology and feasibility analysis

  • Shahmir H. Ali (Contributor)
  • Joshua Foreman (Contributor)
  • Ariadna Capasso (Contributor)
  • Abbey M. Jones (Contributor)
  • Yesim Tozan (Contributor)
  • Ralph J. DiClemente (Contributor)



Abstract Background The COVID-19 pandemic has evolved into one of the most impactful health crises in modern history, compelling researchers to explore innovative ways to efficiently collect public health data in a timely manner. Social media platforms have been explored as a research recruitment tool in other settings; however, their feasibility for collecting representative survey data during infectious disease epidemics remain unexplored. Objectives This study has two aims 1) describe the methodology used to recruit a nationwide sample of adults residing in the United States (U.S.) to participate in a survey on COVID-19 knowledge, beliefs, and practices, and 2) outline the preliminary findings related to recruitment, challenges using social media as a recruitment platform, and strategies used to address these challenges. Methods An original web-based survey informed by evidence from past literature and validated scales was developed. A Facebook advertisement campaign was used to disseminate the link to an online Qualtrics survey between March 20–30, 2020. Two supplementary male-only and racial minority- targeted advertisements were created on the sixth and tenth day of recruitment, respectively, to address issues of disproportionate female- and White-oriented gender- and ethnic-skewing observed in the advertisement’s reach and response trends. Results In total, 6602 participant responses were recorded with representation from all U.S. 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The advertisements cumulatively reached 236,017 individuals and resulted in 9609 clicks (4.07% reach). Total cost of the advertisement was $906, resulting in costs of $0.09 per click and $0.18 per full response (completed surveys). Implementation of the male-only advertisement improved the cumulative percentage of male respondents from approximately 20 to 40%. Conclusions The social media advertisement campaign was an effective and efficient strategy to collect large scale, nationwide data on COVID-19 within a short time period. Although the proportion of men who completed the survey was lower than those who didn’t, interventions to increase male responses and enhance representativeness were successful. These findings can inform future research on the use of social media recruitment for the rapid collection of survey data related to rapidly evolving health crises, such as COVID-19.
Date made available1 Jan 2020
PublisherFigshare - Springer

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