Social Media + Online Recruitment

Private Online Spaces Recruitment

Recruitment in private online spaces such as a group page, chat room or discussion board requires specific permissions from the group or page moderators. The ARISE application should explicitly outline the website or social media network that will be used to post online recruitment notices.

Social Media Recruitment

Where social media is used, it is recommended that you do not log in with personal accounts or profiles to post the recruitment notices. Where possible (e.g., Twitter), a temporary account that is research-specific only should be used.

Researchers should seek out and be familiar with the data and privacy policies that any given social media platform has in place and in particular, know where data are stored and rules surrounding their use, etc.


When using Twitter or similar applications, the following should be provided:

  • information about the Twitter account from which the recruitment notices will originate;
  • the 280-character tweet; and
  • information about the landing page individuals will be taken to if they click on the URL link in the tweet.


Where Facebook or a similar application is used, the following should be provided:

  • the recruitment notice/ad;
  • information about the pages/groups where the notice will be posted;
  • information about whether the pages/groups are open or closed; and
  • information about the account from which the ad is posted.

When recruiting on social media it is important to think carefully about the implications of the confidentiality of the recruitment process. For example, individuals may comment on a recruitment posting on Facebook, or tag a friend they think might be interested in participation. This makes it visible to others. These postings should include explicit instructions that questions regarding participation should be via direct or private messaging instead of publicly online. Additionally, comments should be disabled for the post.

Online Classified Site Recruitment

If you're using an online classified site such as Kijiji or Craigslist, care should be taken not to post in employment sections but rather in volunteer or research sections, if available.

Email for Recruitment

The use of email should be in accordance with the REB's Use of Email to Communicate with Study Participants Guidance and best practices.

Health Research

Where health information may be conveyed, the REB understands use of email for recruitment purposes does not meet the privacy and security standards outlined in the AHS email policy. As such, the REB is unlikely to approve of any email-based methods of recruitment where personal health information is directly linked to the email. Other scenarios will be considered on a case-by-case basis, ensuring compliance with AHS and University of Alberta policies. Where email recruitment can be used, it is imperative that no reference to the individual's health diagnosis be included in the subject line of the email. The subject line should be generic, i.e., "Invitation to participate in a research project" instead of "Invitation to participate in a research project for those living with Diabetes". The researcher must submit the subject line along with the email content for approval by the REB.

Non-Health Research

The use of email for recruitment can be a useful tool, particularly for online survey invitations. Care must also be taken to protect the privacy of the recipient of the email. As with health research, an individual's privacy can be compromised depending on the subject of the research. Therefore, the subject line should be as generic as possible. The REB must approve both the content of the email as well as the subject line. 

Third-Party Email Recruitment

Where a third party, i.e., data custodian or other entity, sends out the recruitment email on behalf of the research team, a copy of that email should be submitted to the REB for approval. The email should include a clear statement that the email is being sent on behalf of the study team and that any questions or indications of participation should be addressed to the study team and not by reply to the sender, in order to protect their confidentiality.