Given the difficulty in reaching sexual minority youth, online recruitment presents a unique opportunity to reach a national sample of adolescents. Here we describe the development and refinement of a national online recruitment strategy to reach a diverse group of gay, bisexual, and queer (GBQ) youth in the United States for Guy2Guy – a text messaging-based HIV prevention program developed for GBQ adolescent males.
Methods: Recruitment for three different development activities (focus groups, content review, and beta testing) occurred between November 2012 and April 2014. The Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) recruitment period spanned from June–November 2014. Participants were aged 14–18 years, male sex at birth, identified as gay, bisexual, and/or queer, exclusive owners of a cell phone which they planned to have for the next 6 months, enrolled in an unlimited text messaging plan and had texted for at least 6 months. Initial online recruitment activities used a combination of paid and unpaid advertising and assistance from two LGBT-focused organizations. The recruitment strategy was iterated upon after each development activity recruitment period.
Results: The online recruitment strategy iterations during study development focused on Facebook as the primary RCT recruitment source. Our initial recruitment activity targeted on interests in the Facebook advertisement manager. To broaden our reach, the targeting was modified to focus only on: location (US), age (14–18 years), sex (male), language (English), and sexual interest (men; men and women). Facebook ads were regularly monitored and modified. A culturally diverse group of participants (e.g., race, ethnicity, age, urban-rural residence) was purposefully and sequentially enrolled. Recruitment sample size targets were successfully met by harnessing an online recruitment strategy.
Conclusions: Facebook is an efficient and effective method of recruiting a diverse group of GBQ adolescent males for study participation.