Reaching Out: Using Social Media to Recruit ‘Invisible Groups’: The Case of South Asian Women in the UK Experiencing Gender-Related Violence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


The rise of social media use has been phenomenal, particularly during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Facebook has also seen its share of users rise at a meteoric rate. At the same time, the academy is producing a growing body of literature concerning the use of online methods for primary data collection. Yet, despite the increase in the use of the internet as a research tool, very little still exists on the use of social media to recruit research participants, particularly those deemed “socially invisible”. This paper addresses this gap. Another research project explored the experiences of South Asian women who had departed the social norms of arranged marriage to form an intimate relationship with a partner of choice and who then experienced forms of gender-related violence (GRV). The project encountered difficulties in recruiting participants from this marginalised and often invisible group in UK society, who are often too frightened or ashamed to come forward. This study demonstrates how to use Facebook ethically and methodologically, highlighting some of the methods used to overcome the challenges that were presented. The research was undertaken before the COVID-19 pandemic (which prompted a widespread use of social media in social science research). We argue that, despite the ethical challenges, the advantages of using social media to recruit participants when researching a highly sensitive topic such as GRV with ‘invisible groups’ was highly beneficial. We therefore suggest that social media should be an integral part of the research recruitment process, alongside non-digital methods, so that other ‘invisible groups’ are not created comprising those who cannot access technology. We share the lessons learned for the benefit of researchers using a similar approach today when recruiting research participants from invisible and marginalised groups. The authors caveat their recommendation of using social media with suggesting that those who do not have high levels of experience of data collection with such cohorts instead consider working with gatekeepers to facilitate the recruitment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number212
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


  • Facebook
  • South Asian women
  • recruiting research participants
  • gender-related violence;
  • “invisible groups”
  • Ethics
  • UK


Dive into the research topics of 'Reaching Out: Using Social Media to Recruit ‘Invisible Groups’: The Case of South Asian Women in the UK Experiencing Gender-Related Violence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this