University of Tasmania

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Like, comment, tag, share: Facebook interactions in health research

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 11:17 authored by Kehinde ObamiroKehinde Obamiro, West, S, Simone Lee
Background and Objectives: A key aspect of the Internet that facilitates research is social media, especially the meteoric rise in the use of Facebook as one of the primary applications for social connectivity. Facebook can be considered a rich source of data due to the high amounts of demographic information shared by users and stored in the system, as well as the way in which users share their thoughts and behaviour in their natural environment. This report focuses on one functionality that as yet remained under-discussed and perhaps under-utilised as a tool in health research - the ability for participants or interested parties to leave comments directly on Facebook posts relating to research projects. Further, this report provides some considerations for researchers intending to use Facebook in recruiting participants for research.

Methods: The study was a Bowel Cancer Awareness Study conducted by the Centre for Rural Health, University of Tasmania to assess bowel cancer risk awareness in Tasmania. Participants were recruited to complete a survey on LimeSurveyTM via a Facebook page used to advertise the study. Several comments were made on the Facebook page over a three-month period, which were then further categorised and thematically analysed. Specifically, these comments were reviewed to determine how valuable Facebook comments can be for research.

Results: The Facebook advertisement for the survey reached 136,640 people at a cost of $0.04 (4 cents) per person. From the range of comments received, four separate functions of these comments became apparent upon analysis - the capacity to ask questions, the ability to interact with others, promotion of the survey, and suggestions for future research.

Discussion: From the bowel cancer awareness study, we found that Facebook comments on our study page allowed for an opportunity for ongoing contact with respondents, opportunity to receive feedback, address concerns and harness future research ideas. The ability to further utilize the potential for Facebook comments to enrich data collection and health research warrants a continuous and sustained interest, as research methodology progressively utilises the Internet and social media platforms as an effective and affordable option.


Cancer Council of Tasmania


Publication title

International Journal of Medical Informatics



Article number









School of Health Sciences


Elsevier Sci Ireland Ltd

Place of publication

Customer Relations Manager, Bay 15, Shannon Industrial Estate Co, Clare, Ireland

Rights statement

Crown Copyright © 2020 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Behaviour and health; Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified; Rural and remote area health

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