Introduction: Community engagement is important for advancing Clinical and Translational Science (CTS), but face-to-face engagement has limited reach and scale. We examined the feasibility of a novel virtual Facebook community platform for public engagement on health research statewide in Minnesota. Methods: The Facebook platform, MN Research Link, was evaluated from June 19, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Facebook advertisements and boosts were used to recruit followers. Content, based on prior formative work, included health research information and interactive postings (e.g., live interviews with researchers). Standard metrics obtained from Facebook analytics included participation (followers), content reach (views), and engagement (likes, shares, comments, clicks). Results: During the 12-month period, we acquired 1406 followers (31% rural residents), with a retention of followers of 99.7%. Mean number of views per month was 9379.83 (Mdn = 2791, range 724-41,510). Engagement metrics indicated a mean of 535.2 likes, shares, comments, and/or clicks per month (Mdn = 296.5, range 55-1535). The page continued to acquire new followers, but a slight decrease in engagement was observed in the final months after state COVID-19 mitigation strategies were implemented. Conclusion: As the complexity of CTS continues to grow, along with social distancing measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of virtual digital platforms to reach and engage community stakeholders in conversations about health and research has increasing importance. Preliminary findings from this program evaluation indicate that a Facebook community platform is feasible to engage Minnesota residents in conversations around health and research topics. Future work will evaluate its potential for reach, scale, and sustainability.
- community engagement
- Social media