Effectiveness of social media approaches to recruiting young adult cigarillo smokers: Cross-sectional study

David Cavallo, Rock Lim, Karen Ishler, Maria Pagano, Rachel Perovsek, Elizabeth Albert, Sarah Koopman Gonzalez, Erika Trapl, Susan Flocke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: The prevalence of social media use among youth and young adults suggests it is an appropriate platform for study recruitment from this population. Previous studies have examined the use of social media for recruitment, but few have compared platforms, and none, to our knowledge, have attempted to recruit cigarillo users. Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of different social media platforms and advertisement images for recruiting cigarillo users aged 14-28 years to complete a cigarillo use survey. Methods: We obtained objective data for advertisement impressions for a 39-week social media recruitment campaign. Advertisements were targeted to users based on their age, geography, and interests. Effectiveness was defined as the percentage of approved surveys per advertising impression. Chi-square tests were performed to compare the effectiveness of different advertisement images and platforms. Results: Valid survey completers (n=1089) were predominately older (25-28 years old, n=839, 77%). Of the 1089 survey completers, 568 (52%) identified as male, 335 (31%) as African American, and 196 (18%) as Hispanic. Advertisements delivered via Facebook/Instagram were more effective than Twitter; 311/1,027,738 (0.03%) vs 661/2,998,715 (0.02%); χ21=21.45, N=4,026,453); P<.001. Across platforms, ads featuring exclusively an image of cigarillos were more effective (397/682,994, 0.06%) than ads with images of individuals smoking (254/1,308,675, 0.02%), individuals not smoking (239/1,393,134, .02%), and groups not smoking (82/641,650, 0.01%); χ23133.73, N=4,026,453; P<.001. Conclusions: The campaign was effective in recruiting a diverse sample representative of relevant racial/ethnic categories. Advertisements on Facebook were more effective than Twitter. Advertisements that featured an image of a cigarillo were consistently the most effective and should be considered by others recruiting cigarillo users via social media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12619
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Adolescent young adult
  • Research subject recruitment
  • Social media
  • Tobacco products

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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