JOURNAL ARTICLE

Purposive facebook recruitment endows cost-effective nutrition education program evaluation

Barbara Lohse, Patricia Wamboldt
JMIR Research Protocols 2013, 2 (2): e27
23948573

BACKGROUND: Recent legislation established a requirement for nutrition education in federal assistance programs to be evidence-based. Recruitment of low-income persons to participate and evaluate nutrition education activities can be challenging and costly. Facebook has been shown to be a cost-effective strategy to recruit this target audience to a nutrition program.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of our study was to examine Facebook as a strategy to recruit participants, especially Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible persons, to view and evaluate an online nutrition education program intended to be offered as having some evidence base for SNAP-Ed programming.

METHODS: English-speaking, low-income Pennsylvania residents, 18-55 years with key profile words (eg, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Food bank), responded to a Facebook ad inviting participation in either Eating Together as a Family is Worth It (WI) or Everyone Needs Folic Acid (FA). Participants completed an online survey on food-related behaviors, viewed a nutrition education program, and completed a program evaluation. Facebook set-up functions considered were costing action, daily spending cap, and population reach.

RESULTS: Respondents for both WI and FA evaluations were similar; the majority were white, <40 years, overweight or obese body mass index, and not eating competent. A total of 807 Facebook users clicked on the WI ad with 73 unique site visitors and 47 of them completing the program evaluation (ie, 47/807, 5.8% of clickers and 47/73, 64% of site visitors completed the evaluation). Cost per completed evaluation was US $25.48; cost per low-income completer was US $39.92. Results were similar for the FA evaluation; 795 Facebook users clicked on the ad with 110 unique site visitors, and 73 completing the evaluation (ie, 73/795, 9.2% of ad clickers and 73/110, 66% of site visitors completed the evaluation). Cost per valid completed survey with program evaluation was US $18.88; cost per low-income completer was US $27.53.

CONCLUSIONS: With Facebook we successfully recruited low-income Pennsylvanians to online nutrition program evaluations. Benefits using Facebook as a recruitment strategy included real-time recruitment management with lower costs and more efficiency compared to previous data from traditional research recruitment strategies reported in the literature. Limitations prompted by repeated survey attempts need to be addressed to optimize this recruitment strategy.

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