Academic journal article International Journal of Electronic Commerce Studies

Facebook Advertisements for Survey Participant Recruitment: Considerations from a Multi-National Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Electronic Commerce Studies

Facebook Advertisements for Survey Participant Recruitment: Considerations from a Multi-National Study

Article excerpt


Facebook's global reach suggests good potential for recruiting research participants and collecting objective behavioral data for cross-cultural research. Previous literature suggests the usefulness of Facebook advertisements to recruit participants in single-country studies. However, Facebook advert use in multi-country studies has not yet been reported. Nor are there any reports about soliciting Facebook user data (via Facebook applications) using Facebook advertisements. This paper contributes to this gap in Internet research, reporting on the effectiveness of Facebook advertisements to recruit participants, and for soliciting anonymized Facebook user data, in a 20-country study about privacy concerns on Facebook. Over seven days, 399 Facebook users from 18 countries responded to country-targeted advertisements in 13 languages. Response rates (ratio of advert clicks to valid responses) per country varied from 0% up to 14%. Overall, two-thirds of the country response rates were below 5%, and many country samples were gender-biased due to confounding societal factors. We conclude that for multi-national studies, Facebook advertisements may have potential for simple participant recruitment for surveys, but have limitations for soliciting Facebook user data. For user data collection, methods such as Amazon Mechanical Turk and snowball sampling may be more effective, but can be limited in their international reach.

Keywords: Internet Research Methods, Facebook Advertisements, Recruitment, Surveys, Data Collection, SNS, Cross-Cultural


In early 2012, we set about surveying Facebook users from around the world about their concerns regarding privacy on Facebook (the degree to which users are concerned about unwanted third party accesses to their personal information on Facebook). The task was formidable in the sense that we planned to conduct analyses on the data using multilevel modeling techniques; in order to assure statistical power in such techniques, an absolute bare minimum of 20 countries and 30 participants per country, preferably up to 100 participants per country, are required1. For a relatively small graduate school in Japan, and lacking a suitably diverse network of possible collaborators, it would be no small feat to achieve these numbers.

Our motivation for the study was to address limitations in current literature regarding cross-cultural differences in privacy concern on Facebook. That is to say, there is no doubt that societies can differ in levels of privacy concern on Facebook2, 3, 4, 5, 6. However, while many studies n invoke cross-cultural paradigms such as Hofstede's7 cultural dimensions as predictors, studies tend to focus only on pairs of countries; this leads to tautological and often contradictory hypotheses which become easy to prove given the right pair of countries (contrast Krasnova & Veltri4 and Lowry, Cao, & Everard5 for example). Suffice it to say, we considered it necessary to sample a large number of societies, so that we might better grasp the general patterns of privacy concern variance across societies, and better apply general theories of culture as possible quantitative predictors8, ' .

A large challenge facing us was gathering data, which naturally begins with recruitment of study participants. It was here, encouraged by the relative success of previous studies (see Literature Review below), we decided to attempt recruitment of participants via Facebook advertisements.

Below, we survey the current published literature chronicling the use of Facebook for participant recruitment before reporting on our own experiences in utilizing Facebook advertisements for recruiting participants for a multi-national study. To our knowledge, ours is the first paper to report the efficacy of Facebook advertisements for recruiting participants for a multi-national cross-cultural study. We also compare the efficacy of Facebook advertisement-based recruitment to other online methods, namely snowball sampling and Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) crowd sourcing. …

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