How UCSF's CTSI Enabled a Groundbreaking Smoking Study through Facebook

Back in 2011, participant recruitment for research studies through social media such as Facebook barely existed. That year UCSF's CTSI offered unique pilot funding to support joint work between faculty and select CTSI programs. Danielle Ramo, PhD, adjunct associate professor of psychiatry, teamed up with staff from CTSI’s Participant Recruitment program to combine her expertise around the patient population she worked with, young adults engaged in smoking or substance abuse, with the program’s knowledge of study recruitment to test out Facebook as a medium for recruitment.

Once awarded the grant, the team spent a year developing a marketing campaign and design plan to evaluate which strategy worked best to enroll teen smokers into her study. This pilot exploring the effectiveness of social media built a foundation for Ramo’s research, and later on, drove the creation of CTSI’s social media recruitment services and consultations.

“At that time there were few papers and little information on Facebook itself on how researchers could reach populations of interest through social media,” said Ramo. “It became an outstanding research collaboration.”