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Lessons learned using Facebook advertising during COVID-19

Workshop Presentation by Joseph Ollier

The use of social media platforms for the purpose of recruitment is becoming more popular in digital health due to easy access to a range of metrics. Despite this, social media recruitment is often a relatively neglected area in healthcare research. This workshop paper titled “Face(book)ing the Truth: Initial Lessons Learned using Facebook Advertisements for the Chatbot-delivered Elena+ Care for COVID-19″ by Joseph Ollier, Prabhakaran Santhanam, and Tobias Kowatsch outlines the authors’ initial tests completed on the Facebook Ad Manager platform for the chatbot-delivered digital health intervention Elena+ Care for COVID-19.

Elena+ (Ollier, Joseph & Kowatsch, 2020) was developed during Spring 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the globe. The conversational agent offers 43 coaching sessions focusing on psycho-educational training and activities. The topics cover a range of fields relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as relating to physical wellbeing (physical activity, sleep, diet and nutrition) and psychological wellbeing (anxiety, loneliness, mental resources).

In this paper, the authors outline their process of recruiting participants to test the app, following its development. For this purpose, advertisements were created and displayed from August to September 2020 using the Facebook Ad Manager platform for Facebook Businesses. The advertisements consisted of static images or carousels of images. In total eleven advertisements were ran online, targeting both Android and iOS users in the UK and Ireland.

The authors review the costs and patterns identified in a number of constellations. For instance, the authors found significant differences in engagement and response between Android and iOS users, as well as between male and female users, which might be of interest to researchers planning similar recruitment campaigns.

For further details, please watch the lead author’s video abstract below and refer to the full workshop paper.


Ollier, J.B., Santhanam, P., Kowatsch, T., Face(book)ing the Truth: Initial Lessons Learned using Facebook Advertisements for the Chatbot-delivered Elena+ Care for COVID-19 Intervention, In Proceedings of the 14th International Joint Conference on Biomedical Engineering Systems and Technologies (BIOSTEC 2021) – Volume 5: HEALTHINF, 781-788 ISBN: 978-989-758-490-9 ISSN: 2184-4305. [PDF]

Visual Abstract

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