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Clinical Trial Recruitment and Retention of College Students with Type 1 Diabetes via Social Media: An Implementation Case Study.



We sought to quantify the efficiency and acceptability of Internet-based recruitment for engaging an especially hard-to-reach cohort (college-students with type 1 diabetes, T1D) and to describe the approach used for implementing a health-related trial entirely online using off-the-shelf tools inclusive of participant safety and validity concerns.


We recruited youth (ages 17-25 years) with T1D via a variety of social media platforms and other outreach channels. We quantified response rate and participant characteristics across channels with engagement metrics tracked via Google Analytics and participant survey data. We developed decision rules to identify invalid (duplicative/false) records (N = 89) and compared them to valid cases (N = 138).


Facebook was the highest yield recruitment source; demographics differed by platform. Invalid records were prevalent; invalid records were more likely to be recruited from Twitter or Instagram and differed from valid cases across most demographics. Valid cases closely resembled characteristics obtained from Google Analytics and from prior data on platform user-base. Retention was high, with complete follow-up for 88.4%. There were no safety concerns and participants reported high acceptability for future recruitment via social media.


We demonstrate that recruitment of college students with T1D into a longitudinal intervention trial via social media is feasible, efficient, acceptable, and yields a sample representative of the user-base from which they were drawn. Given observed differences in characteristics across recruitment channels, recruiting across multiple platforms is recommended to optimize sample diversity. Trial implementation, engagement tracking, and retention are feasible with off-the-shelf tools using preexisting platforms.

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