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The Role of Social Media in Research Sample Recruitment

Make the most of your social media network.

Key points

  • Step out of the lab and into cyberspace to recruit for your study.

There are almost three and a half billion social media users who spend nearly two and a half hours a day browsing and messaging (Geyser, 2021). Regardless of the various platforms, social media has replaced the expensive and dreadful long distance telephone calls by allowing us to keep us with our out of area code friends and family for the cost of an internet connection. We share our worlds through our posts of photos, videos, status updates, as well as forwarding information on whatever is important and on our radar.

Friends, followers, connections, and contacts typically consist of a random mix of volunteers from our past, present, and future through a diverse network of people representing different races, nationalities, ethnicities, locations, age groups, genders, career backgrounds, as well as marital and socioeconomic statuses.

Throughout my nearly 30-year career in psychology, I have been collecting data in a number of conventional and unconventional contexts. The more conventional settings were research labs or structured meetings in prisons, boardrooms, offices, schools, universities, churches, and community centers. The unconventional settings include laundromats, stores, train stations and aboard boats. Whether it was surveying prisoners about their hostility level and scuba diving instructors about their personalities, holding focus groups for intercity community members about neighborhood safety, or observing fighting work groups, I learned that a little creativity goes a long way to collect the best data to accurately answer the research questions.

Several highly publicized psychological research tends to result from data collected in laboratory settings, using homogeneous and convenience samples who participate for course credit. We all know that the stronger and more diverse the sample, the more generalizable the data, so why not stay out of the lab and recruit through social media. You will need a heavily reviewed recruitment message that has been approved by the university's Institutional Review Board (IRB) that will include buzzwords such as voluntary, confidential, anonymous, transparency, and all data will be aggregated together.

Informing your social network of an opportunity to participate in a study that could benefit them and ask them to pass information along their network. You have this diverse social network, use it!


Geyser, W., (2021). 40 Essential Social Media Statistics for 2021 (Updated). Influencer Marketing Hub