This is the second installment in the Social Media Recruitment Guide, produced by Dr. Danielle Ramo, PhD, and Manpreet Kaur, MA. Dr. Ramo is available for recruitment consultations through Consultation Services.

View more at:

  1. Introduction to Social Media Recruitment: Opportunities and Challenges
  2. Getting Started with Facebook
  3. Preparing an IRB Submission
  4. Budgeting for Social Media Recruitment

Getting started with Facebook 

1. Overview of Ad Campaigns  

You can use Facebook Ad Manager to set up campaigns for both Facebook and Instagram. To get started, the first step is to set up your Ad Campaign, which has three components:

Objectives: To create a campaign, you first need to select an objective. Facebook has three categories to choose from: Awareness, Consideration, and Conversions.  Each objective has recommendations on ad formats and platforms associated with it. Once you select an objective, this creates a campaign. If you are trying to get people to sign up for more information or fill out a pre-screening survey, you probably want to select a "conversion" objective.

Ad Set: This is where you you define your budget, schedule, bidding, and ad placement.

Ads: The ads section is where you add your images and text--the actual ad. 

All of these features are easily modified, so you can adjust your strategy as you monitor what’s working.

2. Targeting advertisements for reach your specific population 

There are two ways to target on Facebook/Instagram. The first is by demographic features of users based on their profiles (e.g., by location, gender, age, language, and interest). This is an easy strategy for targeting that can be useful regardless if you use keywords targeting. If you know you only want to recruit people who live within a certain distance of a city, for example, or only those who identify as male, this can be easily done. Keep in mind, though, that demographic targeting is only going to reach those who have specified demographic characteristics in their profile.

The second way to target users is through keywords. On Facebook, keywords are based on anything a person interacts with on Facebook, such as what people share on their timelines, apps they use, ads they click, and pages they visit. Additionally, as more websites use Facebook for "single sign on" registration (this is when a non-Facebook site asks you if you would like to sign into their site using Facebook), you have access to even more user data. You should select your keywords based on what your target population might “like.” For example, if your population is smokers, they may not identify as such in their Facebook profile, but they may be members of smoking-oriented groups or have smoking-related content in their profiles; these words related to smoking would be useful keywords. Some ideas for additional keywords to think about are medications, support groups, books, authors, and treatment centers that have some connection to the condition.  Choose as many keywords as you can, as that will maximize the number of users who could potentially see an ad. Additionally, when you type a keyword, Facebook will make some suggestions of related keywords.

With some campaigns, you will have the option to choose your platform (Facebook or Instagram). The choice to use one platform over another should be based on the population you are targeting. There are differences in absolute numbers and demographics of users across the two platforms, and we have outlined that in our previous post .  If you’re not sure whether Facebook or Instagram will be more successful, you may wish to starting with both and monitor which is more successful. There are differences in absolute numbers and demographics of users across the two platforms, as outlined that in the previous post. In the absence of knowledge about whether Facebook or Instagram will be more successful we suggest starting with both and monitoring which is most successful.

3. Budgeting your ads

Spending money on Facebook/Instagram ads is related to the ad budget you set up, which includes how the ads are being delivered, the amount of money you are willing to pay, and for how long. Once you have a sense of the overall ad campaign budget, estimate the amount you might spend per day, and distribute that money among a few ads. You might want to start off with a higher daily budget (Eg. $100/day) and make changes to the budget daily or weekly depending on how many people you are able to recruit.

Some days may have higher yields than other days; when this happens, Facebook may go over your specified budget by up to 25%. For example, if your daily budget is $10, they may spend up to $12.50 on a given day in order to deliver your ads efficiently. However, you would not overspend because your charges will average out over a calendar week (Sunday to Saturday).

Learn more about how to approach this on our Budgeting for Social Media post, and view the Facebook guide to budgeting, here.


4. Check your reach

Once you complete steps 1-3, Facebook will give you an estimate of how many people you will reach with your ad demographics and budget. Trialfacts' Beginner’s Guide to Using Facebook Advertising for Patient Recruitment guide suggests estimating that 1% of people who see your ad will click on it; of those, about 10% will actually follow through to initiate enrollment. In other words, you can estimate that ad reach x .0001=the number of people to enroll. If you find that your reach is not what you expect, you can easily adjust your demographics, keywords, and budget at this time. 

5. Facebook approval

All Facebook/Instagram ads that you designed must be approved by Facebook, so make sure you submit your ads and are ready with your ad campaigns at least a week before your launch date. Familiarize yourself with the policies of Facebook to get your ads approved faster. Facebook has an ad images cheat sheet and tips for writing the text of your Facebook ad to help users become familiar with the Facebook approval guidelines.

6. Measure your ads performance – Analytics

In order to launch a successful ad campaign for all your research projects recruitment, it is important to understand your ad performance. With every ad campaign you run on Facebook/Instagram, you can see data on how it’s doing. You can also view performance, demographics, and placements charts specific to the ad campaign/sets you have selected.

Learn more on how you can measure how much your ads are helping you in recruiting your participants here

7. Billing your ads

Managing and paying your bills for Facebook/Instagram ads is easy. In the Billing section of Ads Manager, you'll find all your final charges including the specific ads you paid for and exactly what you paid for, like running an ad for awareness or getting people to click your ad. You can expect a bill from Facebook at the end of every month. Learn more about what to expect in the Facebook ads bill here