Facebook: an effective tool for participant retention in longitudinal research.

Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, AB, Canada.
Child Care Health and Development (Impact Factor: 1.7). 10/2011; 38(5):753-6. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01326.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Facebook is currently one of the world's most visited websites, and home to millions of users who access their accounts on a regular basis. Owing to the website's ease of accessibility and free service, demographic characteristics of users span all domains. As such, Facebook may be a valuable tool for locating and communicating with participants in longitudinal research studies. This article outlines the benefit gained in a longitudinal follow-up study, of an intervention programme for at-risk families, through the use of Facebook as a search engine.
Using Facebook as a resource, we were able to locate 19 participants that were otherwise 'lost' to follow-up, decreasing attrition in our study by 16%. Additionally, analysis indicated that hard-to-reach participants located with Facebook differed significantly on measures of receptive language and self-esteem when compared to their easier-to-locate counterparts.
These results suggest that Facebook is an effective means of improving participant retention in a longitudinal intervention study and may help improve study validity by reaching participants that contribute differing results.

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