Mar 22, 2010
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Hello all,

I am currently working as an RA on a family genetics study on schizophrenia, schizoaffective, & bipolar w/ psychotic features disorders. We need more participants that have these disorders, but to be eligible for the study they also need a first degree family member to complete it with them. The study involves things like clinical interviews, EEG, fMRI, eyetracking, and neuropsych assessments. It probably takes about 12 hours to complete it all, and all participants are paid.

This is the 3rd year into the study, and it's just getting really hard finding new participants. However, we're still only halfway toward our recruitment goal of 700. We have established relationships with some of the clinics around here and recruited from there, but they have pretty much been tapped out by now. The PIs want to try doing more advertising over the internet, but so far we haven't been very successful in that. We regularly put ads up on Craigslist, and we also have paid ads on Facebook, but we have only gotten 5 participants by doing this.

Has anybody else ever had success with recruiting participants online? Any thoughts or ideas on where else to possibly try? Thanks!
 
Mar 22, 2010
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Can you speak to your local NAMI chapter and have them help recruit?
That's a great suggestion, and we're already actually working with them. We've mailed out brochures and letters to their mailing list, and we've also given presentations at their conferences. We just started attending some of their family support group meetings around the county and handing out brochures there. But so far that all hasn't been too successful. We've gotten about 5 people from that. It just seems we're putting in a lot of effort and getting very little back.. it's a bit frustrating!
 

Therapist4Chnge

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That's a great suggestion, and we're already actually working with them. We've mailed out brochures and letters to their mailing list, and we've also given presentations at their conferences. We just started attending some of their family support group meetings around the county and handing out brochures there. But so far that all hasn't been too successful. We've gotten about 5 people from that. It just seems we're putting in a lot of effort and getting very little back.. it's a bit frustrating!
Considering you have a pretty specific population, your current avenues are the best way to go. Online recruitment can be costly and often a poor return on investment because it lacks the specificity needed. Support groups and local organizations are best because of your local requirements (for testing, etc). Have you looked at community mental health centers, churches, and/or homeless shelters?
 
Mar 22, 2010
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Considering you have a pretty specific population, your current avenues are the best way to go. Online recruitment can be costly and often a poor return on investment because it lacks the specificity needed. Support groups and local organizations are best because of your local requirements (for testing, etc). Have you looked at community mental health centers, churches, and/or homeless shelters?
Thanks, T4C. We've actually screened about 25 people that called us from the Craigslist ad, and 5 of them wound up doing the study. At one of the clinics we recruit at, we screened 427 people, and 12 did the study. So we've actually gotten a better return proportionally from the CL ad. I just can't think of anywhere else on the internet that would get us comparable results. But I definitely agree that the paid ads probably aren't worth it.. you simply just do not get enough room to be specific enough. And who ever really clicks on them, anyway?

We are trying now to establish relationships with different clinics and mental health centers, but it just seems almost impossible at times. There's a lot of annoying politics that go into it. I actually just work for one division of a huge state university system, so if one of the other divisions is already working with a clinic, they have first dibs and we're not allowed to approach them. And a lot of the mental health centers and day programs just don't want to be bothered. We basically would be creating more work for them, and they're not really getting anything in return.

I've brought up the idea of working with homeless shelters, but apparently our IRB says we're not allowed to. We actually are going to start trying churches, though, so maybe that will help. We're trying to get in with the VA, too, but that's proven to be a huge ordeal. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it will happen one of these days! :xf:

It's a shame, too, because the NIH is nearby and they are doing a study that is pretty much exactly the same as ours. Why can't we just collaborate with them and exchange participants! Stupid politics. :mad:
 

Metta

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Mar 24, 2009
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Has anybody else ever had success with recruiting participants online? Any thoughts or ideas on where else to possibly try?
Have you tried looking for on-line forums/discussion boards, either free-standing or associated with Web sites of organizations that support the populations you're interested in? Similarly, you might look on Yahoogroups, Google, and so on, for mailing lists that are intended for people with the disorders you're interested in (and perhaps lists for their family members and other caregivers as well). You'd probably need to contact the owners/administrators/moderators and ask for permission to recruit; most will want information on the study, your IRB approval, and so on, but it sounds like you're already well-prepared to provide that info.

Another possibility is Google's "ad words" advertising service. Basically, anyone who searches Google for one or more of the words you choose (for example, you might include schizophrenia, schizoaffective, bipolar, and so on) sees your ad either highlighted as their first search result, or in a list of brief ads down the right side of their screen. I don't recall if you pay "per display" or "per click", and you do need to choose your words carefully so as to avoid running up unnecessary costs by displaying your ad to too broad an audience, but if your budget can afford it, it might bring in some new participants.
 
Mar 22, 2010
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Have you tried looking for on-line forums/discussion boards, either free-standing or associated with Web sites of organizations that support the populations you're interested in? Similarly, you might look on Yahoogroups, Google, and so on, for mailing lists that are intended for people with the disorders you're interested in (and perhaps lists for their family members and other caregivers as well). You'd probably need to contact the owners/administrators/moderators and ask for permission to recruit; most will want information on the study, your IRB approval, and so on, but it sounds like you're already well-prepared to provide that info.

Another possibility is Google's "ad words" advertising service. Basically, anyone who searches Google for one or more of the words you choose (for example, you might include schizophrenia, schizoaffective, bipolar, and so on) sees your ad either highlighted as their first search result, or in a list of brief ads down the right side of their screen. I don't recall if you pay "per display" or "per click", and you do need to choose your words carefully so as to avoid running up unnecessary costs by displaying your ad to too broad an audience, but if your budget can afford it, it might bring in some new participants.
Thanks for the suggestions, Metta. That's what I've been doing today.. looking up any forums and discussion boards. I didn't think to try mailing lists, though, but I'll definitely look into that. Good idea.

I think we're probably going to wind up trying Google's AdWords. You pay per click. I just don't think it's going to be very effective.. we've gotten exactly 0 people from our paid Facebook ads. But, who knows. We're so desperate for people, I think my bosses want to give it a try anyway.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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Thanks, T4C. We've actually screened about 25 people that called us from the Craigslist ad, and 5 of them wound up doing the study. At one of the clinics we recruit at, we screened 427 people, and 12 did the study. So we've actually gotten a better return proportionally from the CL ad.
CL can be useful because it is "free", though it can be hit or miss with follow-up. My comments were more about targeted online marketing (ads, banners, key words, click-throughs, etc).
 

Metta

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Mar 24, 2009
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And a lot of the mental health centers and day programs just don't want to be bothered. We basically would be creating more work for them, and they're not really getting anything in return.
Could you come up with a way for them to get something in return for their help? Something to compensate for the extra work you'd be creating for them, or some way of eliminating that extra work? It doesn't necessarily have to be monetary. But they've got something you need (access to potential participants for your study); what does your organization have, or what could you arrange to provide for them, that they might need or want?

More generally... getting your message out to more potential participants is only one way of approaching your problem. Another option might be to make participation easier, more rewarding, or more appealing, and so improve the "rate of return" from your potential participants. Again, that doesn't have to involve money; I'd imagine there are many creative options you could pursue.

Anyway, good luck with it! Seems like recruiting participants is sometimes the hardest part of research. After you've been through it a couple of times, the usual practice of requiring Psych 101 students to serve as a research pool becomes a lot more understandable. :D
 

dale.gribble

Rusty Shackleford
Jun 27, 2014
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Bumping this to collect some thoughts on recruiting online nowadays.

1) What alternatives have people found to be helpful now that craigslist isn't free (and is crazy expensive to boot)? Right now I'm vacillating between the "community" and "gigs" sections, but I'm wondering if there is a more common/better place people post/look outside of the "jobs" section.

2)Does anyone have any advice for Facebook advertising? I keep hearing these stories of people loving Facebook for recruitment, but I haven't gotten much yield from it. I've tried both being specific to the population of interest on all the parameters FB allows, as well as being as general I can within the bounds of in/exclusion criteria. In general, the click-through rate is dismal in comparison to the view rate. [As an aside, I wish there was a way to disable the "like" button for ads--who (other than spammers) honestly "likes" an advertisement?! I don't understand kids these days.]

3) Any other [free] site recommendations? I've gotten a lot of people from Indeed.com, but they're not that ideal for reasons you might guess (i.e., they're looking for a job and prioritize their time accordingly). Has anyone found success with the other popular sites/methods such as Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.?

Thank you in advance!