Using Social Media to Facilitate Communication About Women’s Testing: Tool Validation Study

Tara Coffin, Deborah Bowen, Karen Lu, Elizabeth M. Swisher, Nadine Rayes, Barbara Norquist, Stephanie V. Blank, Douglas A. Levine, Jamie Nadine Bakkum-Gamez, Gini F. Fleming, Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, Iris Romero, Alan D'Andrea, Denise R. Nebgen, Christine Peterson, Mark F. Munsell, Kathleen Gavin, Jamie Crase, Deborah Polinsky, Rebecca Lechner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Strong participant recruitment practices are critical to public health research but are difficult to achieve. Traditional recruitment practices are often time consuming, costly, and fail to adequately target difficult-to-reach populations. Social media platforms such as Facebook are well-positioned to address this area of need, enabling researchers to leverage existing social networks and deliver targeted information. The MAGENTA (Making Genetic Testing Accessible) study aimed to improve the availability of genetic testing for hereditary cancer susceptibility in at-risk individuals through the use of a web-based communication system along with social media advertisements to improve reach. Objective: This paper is aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of Facebook as an outreach tool for targeting women aged ≥30 years for recruitment in the MAGENTA study. Methods: We designed and implemented paid and unpaid social media posts with ongoing assessment as a primary means of research participant recruitment in collaboration with patient advocates. Facebook analytics were used to assess the effectiveness of paid and unpaid outreach efforts. Results: Over the course of the reported recruitment period, Facebook materials had a reach of 407,769 people and 57,248 (14.04%) instances of engagement, indicating that approximately 14.04% of people who saw information about the study on Facebook engaged with the content. Paid advertisements had a total reach of 373,682. Among those reached, just <15% (54,117/373,682, 14.48%) engaged with the page content. Unpaid posts published on the MAGENTA Facebook page resulted in a total of 34,087 reach and 3131 instances of engagement, indicating that around 9.19% (3131/34,087) of people who saw unpaid posts engaged. Women aged ≥65 years reported the best response rate, with approximately 43.95% (15,124/34,410) of reaches translating to engagement. Among the participants who completed the eligibility questionnaire, 27.44% (3837/13,983) had heard about the study through social media or another webpage. Conclusions: Facebook is a useful way of enhancing clinical trial recruitment of women aged ≥30 years who have a potentially increased risk for ovarian cancer by promoting news stories over social media, collaborating with patient advocacy groups, and running paid and unpaid campaigns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35035
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • Facebook
  • genetic testing
  • hereditary cancer
  • mobile phone
  • online social media recruitment
  • ovarian cancer
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Informatics


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