Using Facebook to Recruit Parents to Participate in a Family Program to Prevent Teen Drug Use

Sabrina Oesterle, Marina Epstein, Kevin P. Haggerty, Megan A. Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Despite strong evidence that family programs are effective in preventing adolescent substance use, recruiting parents to participate in such programs remains a persistent challenge. This study explored the feasibility of using Facebook to recruit parents of middle school students to a self-directed family program to prevent adolescent drug use. The study used paid Facebook ads aiming to recruit 100 parents in Washington and Colorado using marijuana- or parenting-focused messages. All ad-recruited parents were also invited to refer others in order to compare Facebook recruitment to web-based respondent-driven sampling. Despite offering a $15 incentive for each successfully referred participant, the majority of the screened (70.4%) and eligible (65.1%) parents were recruited through Facebook ads. Yet, eligibility and consent rates were significantly higher among referred (76.6 and 57.3%, respectively) than Facebook-recruited parents (60.0 and 36.6%, respectively). Click-through rates on Facebook were higher for marijuana-focused than parenting-focused ads (0.72 and 0.65%, respectively). The final sample (54% Facebook-recruited) consisted of 103 demographically homogeneous parents (female, educated, non-Hispanic White, and mostly from Washington). Although Facebook was an effective and efficient method to recruit parents to a study with equal to better cost-effectiveness than traditional recruitment strategies, the promise of social media to reach a diverse population was not realized. Additional approaches to Facebook recruitment are needed to reach diverse samples in real-world settings and increase public health impact of family programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-569
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • (3–5): Social media
  • Drug use prevention
  • Parenting intervention
  • Recruitment
  • Teens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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