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Resources for researchers

Using social media for recruitment, retention, and dissemination

Social media can be a powerful tool that allows patients, providers, and the public to communicate about health issues and, potentially, help improve health outcomes (Journal of Medical Internet Research).  Research institutions like DFCI and Harvard School of Public Health actively use social media to communicate their messages to the public, health care professionals, policy makers, public health practitioners, and researchers.

The DF/HCC Health Communication Core helps researchers assess whether social media would benefit their study recruitment and retention. We can develop a sound social media strategy, and even manage your ongoing social media presence.

To explore whether social media can help your study by facilitating participant engagement, contact us for a free consultation.

Here are some examples of HCC’s social media projects.

Study recruitment on Facebook

HCC is working with the long-running Nurses’ Health Study to recruit a new cohort, NHS3. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn) are integrated into HCC’s recruitment and retention strategies for the study. Facebook activities include: thanking new participants for joining, highlighting NHS news in the media, and posting eye-catching graphics developed specifically for the audience to share with their peers. In the 18 months since the strategy was implemented, the number of NHS3 followers increased from 1,200 to more than 10,400.

Research dissemination through Twitter

Social media can help promote the translation of research into policy and practice. Research journals communicate study results to other researchers, but practitioners and policymakers rely on other media for quick, no-cost access to new knowledge. In addition to managing the public web portal of NCI’s Tobacco Research Network on Disparities (TReND), HCC uses Twitter to share the latest research on tobacco-related health disparities with more than 1,300 followers, drive traffic to the website, and increase awareness of tobacco-related health disparities.

Participant retention with YouTube

Enrolled as children, Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) participants now range in age from their late teens through early 30s. GUTS’ researchers and HCC have implemented a multi-faceted retention strategy that includes graphic rebranding to reflect the study’s dynamism and maturity, and a website where online questionnaires can be quickly and conveniently completed. YouTube, which estimates that it reaches nearly 70% of US 17-34 year olds, provides a no-cost platform for providing participants with a video update that HCC recorded and edited with project director, Dr. Stacey Missmer. A link to the video, in which she shares a personal “thank you” for their commitment to the study, was emailed to approximately 16,000 GUTS participants and within 24 hours received more than 600 views.

Free consultation: We’re always interested in hearing about your projects.
To schedule a free consultation, contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call Catherine Coleman, HCC assistant director, at (617) 632-5078.