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Are you a Slacktivist? Charities impacted by social media trend

The Facebook "Like" icon outside of Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. A UBC study has found would-be donors skip giving cash when they have a chance to show their public support for charities through social media.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
November 09, 2013 - 12:29 PM

VANCOUVER – Does clicking on the ‘Like’ button for a charity on Facebook make it less likely that you will actually donate to that cause?

That’s the question PhD student Kirk Kristofferson and his co-author asked when they embarked on a study at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

The study found would-be donors skip giving cash when they have a chance to show their public support for charities in social media.

“Charities incorrectly assume that connecting with people through social media always leads to more meaningful support,” Kristofferson said. “Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media, it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on.”

The term for this new phenomena is “slacktivism” and the people that practice it are called “slacktivists.”

The researchers had their guinea pigs join a Facebook group, accept a pin or magnet, or sign a petition. They were then asked to donate money or volunteer for the group.

The study found that the more public the token of support, the less likely their participants were to provide meaningful support later. And what’s more public than Facebook.

The support was given privately, like confidentially signing a petition, then the subjects were more likely pony up the cash later.

The researchers theorize that “slacktivism” happens because of our desire to look good to others. Once that is satisfied, we are less likely to follow up with a donation when there’s no public payoff.

Kristofferson is recommending that charities take another look at their strategies and plan appropriately.

“If charities run public token campaigns under the belief that they lead to meaningful support, they may be sacrificing their precious resources in vain,” says Kristofferson. “If the goal is to generate real support, public facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.”

The study was co-authored by Sauder School of Business Associate Professor Katherine White and Florida State University Associate Professor John Peloza.

To contact the reporter for this story, email or call 250-491-0331.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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