What’s trending? Using social media to engage with hard to reach groups through an online survey
Web surveys offer new opportunities for health professionals to engage with often hidden and hard to reach populations to help inform tailored harm reduction strategies.
In 2021, Ireland participated in the European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD). Despite having a relatively small population, it achieved the second highest number of survey responses (5, 782 respondents). The study aimed to review the techniques employed to encourage participation to identify critical success factors so that lessons could be learnt for the future.
Drugs.ie, an information and education website was selected as the main promotional partner for the survey. Novel imagery was developed by a well-known illustrator and used across targeted advertisements on social media and in magazines of interest to populations who use across nightlife settings. It was also promoted by health and community services.
Each technique is reviewed, and key statistics compared to assess their impact. In addition, the profile of the respondent population is compared to other surveys to establish whether it succeeded in gaining responses from target user groups.
A critical success factor was the investment in social media which was the main way respondents accessed the survey (60% with 37% via Facebook). This was facilitated by the utilisation of the well-established drugs.ie site (16% accessed directly) and it’s social media channels (11,000 Twitter and 21,000 Facebook followers), combined with using imagery from an artist well known to young people.
Regular information posting was a key factor. Only 3.5% of respondents had received treatment in the last year showing the difference in user profiles compared to populations attending current Irish health services (opioid driven).