Social Media in Recruitment

Social Media in Recruitment

Researchers utilize social media for two main purposes: recruitment and as a component of the research interventions or data collection methods. When appropriate and applicable for the study, the Penn IRB supports the use of social media in research. This guidance is meant to serve as a resource to guide research teams considering the use of social media for recruitment purposes.


Social media offers researchers the opportunity to extend the reach of recruitment efforts. The continuously evolving nature of social media, however, generates uncertainty for both researchers and IRBs regarding the management of risk to human subjects. Issues of privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and potential risks to subjects arise when researchers and subjects interact virtually.


However, through the development of a carefully considered management plan, social media accounts can facilitate ease in targeting potential subjects and widen the scope of potential data collection. Use of social media for recruitment purposes requires review and approval by the IRB.

Using Ads on Social Media

One-way ads that do not involve direct communication with potential subjects (i.e., paid advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, etc.), are reviewed according to existing IRB review policies related to recruitment materials, as outlined in the IRB SOPs (Sec. 3.4.2). Please review the IRB Guidance Document on developing recruitment materials for more detail on permissible content and the IRB review process.

Interactive Recruitment

Some study teams choose to recruit subjects through two-way communication via researcher-initiated social media accounts. This type of recruitment involves sustained and focused outreach to potential research subjects through direct messages on social media platforms (i.e., Facebook / Instagram/ Twitter direct messages). The IRB will consider this approach to interactive recruitment when research is conducted at a Center within the University that has already established itself as a viable online destination for communities. Please review the guidance below on IRB review requirements for interactive recruitment via social media platforms.

Penn Medicine Social Media Guidelines

This guidance is intended for Centers, Institutes, Department, Divisions or other groups – not individual faculty members or staff – aiming to create social media accounts representing the activities and interests of their group as part of Penn Medicine.

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