Social Media for Research Study Recruitment

This page offers information for research teams at CU Anschutz that plan to use social media to recruit human subjects into research studies/clinical trials. Here's how to get started:


Decide how you would like to promote your study through social media (options below)


If you wish to place paid ads through the CU Anschutz Research Studies Facebook account, fill out a Social Media Request form


Launch your social media campaign

If you have questions, please contact

Social Media Options for Research Terms

Paid Options

Typically, the most effective way to reach targeted audiences on social media is through paid advertisements. Paid advertising campaigns use pre-determined demographics like age, gender, location and interests to reach a target population and display study ads in their social media newsfeeds. There are two ways to place paid research study ads: Through a third-party marketing agency or through the official CU Anschutz Research Studies Facebook page, which is managed by the Clinical Research Recruitment Program team in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. More information on these options is below.

Free Options

Researchers have the option to ask campus groups or third-party organizations to post study information to their respective Facebook pages on behalf of your team. Typically this can be done free of charge. Facebook has millions of dedicated pages/groups for people with similar interests that span a broad range of topics, including many official CU Anschutz-affiliated social media accounts. These accounts can be public or private, and social media users can follow or “like” the page/group/community to receive updates in their news feeds and interact with posted content.

Guidelines for Recruiting Research Subjects Through Social Media

Study teams that wish to disseminate study recruitment content through social media must review and adhere to the following guidelines.

Note: These guidelines are intended to address the use of social media as a recruitment tool, not as a forum for conducting research (e.g. collecting data, observing subjects/data mining through online forums, etc.).

Social Media Dos and Don'ts 

We strongly recommend following these best practices when using social media for research study recruitment.

DO align all study advertisements and materials with CU Anschutz brand guidelines. Using the university’s approved brand for your ads helps to convey a sense of credibility and trustworthiness to potential subjects while building recognition of research efforts. You can find branded templates in the CU Anschutz template library.DON’T create a separate social media account just for your study. Research teams wishing to advertise a research study must go through an official university social media account or third-party agency, as outlined in the options above.
DO create a landing page on the CU Anschutz Research Studies website, and direct potential subjects to this page in all social media ads/posts/content. Learn how to post your study to the Research Studies website here.DON’T message, tag or proactively reach out to potential subjects through social media. Individuals who reach out to a study team member via comments or private messaging should be provided with the contact details of the study team and directed to communicate about the study occur offline (e.g., phone) or via a secure, HIPAA-compliant approved platform.
DO ensure the language on your Research Studies webpage is compelling, engaging, and easy to understand and navigate. Keep in mind many people who click on your ad/post may have never participated in a research study before. Be sure to include information on the time commitment and compensation involved to boost interest.DON’T use your personal social media accounts to purchase or place recruitment ads for research studies. Personal accounts may only be used to contact account/group/ page/community moderators to request they post IRB-approved study content on behalf of the research team.
DO submit several variations of social media content (e.g., alternate images or text) for IRB approval, so the social media teams can make real-time adjustments to optimize campaign engagement. When writing ad text variations, consider the target audience. Concise language is best for social media to optimize the mobile-user experience.DON’T engage in arguments or negative dialogue related to your ad or post. Depending on the nature of the negative comment or message, you can either ignore it or refer the commenter to an offline forum where their questions/concerns can be addressed.
DO review our CU Anschutz social media page for more information and best practices.DON’T rely on “organic” (unpaid) social media posts to recruit research subjects. Unless you have a significant following on social media, these types of posts are rarely effective at reaching target audiences.


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