The Daily Pennsylvanian – Slacking for social change

On Fridays around lunchtime the pace in my work group starts to slow down. My “inbox” accumulation rate slows to a crawl and sometimes, to my delight, stops altogether.

It is at these times that I often take a little opportunity to browse the Daily Pennsylvanian. I want to be connected to my university and I’m also curious about what the students are thinking and then comparing that to [~my version of~] …reality.

It is a pastime I enjoy and which does some good, since I sometimes patronize the advertisers in The Daily Pennsylvanian.

I noted an April 9th editorial on “Slactivism” which was the topic of Christina’s and my mid-term project.

Read the editorial here:

I was happy to find that “night-school grad students” had examined a topical issue “first”! [Does that mean DYNM 558 students are “trending?”]

In any case, the editorial explores much of what we discussed in our presentation: whether social media “likes” and “shares” actually do any good for social causes or are they simply “false activism”?

I think, and some of the research we collected for our presentation shows, is that the answer is “yes and no”.

Social media activism creates broad support. Personal (i.e. financial resources or volunteering of time) generates deep support. There is often a boundary between them and the bridge across that boundary might just be another facet of our studies in DYNM 558, “big data”.

Research in the non-profit sector identified two kinds of support: public and private. Public support is often done to benefit one’s standing in a group or community. Likes and shares are good examples of public support. Everyone sees that you support the cause. People appreciate you for that, you enjoy being part of that group.

Private support is done… like the like the name says…in private, and is based on one’s core beliefs. You make the donation (or put in volunteer time) because you have a deep personal commitment in the cause, and it make you feel good to support it, whether or not anyone else ever sees it. Any public acknowledgement is simply an additional benefit.

Is it possible to transform each demonstration of public support, into one of private support?

If one were to consider a “like” or a “share’ the same as a “sales lead”, then maybe it would be possible for an organization to “data mine” this population of self-selected supporters of whatever cause they are liking or sharing. One UK study reviewed in building our presentation showed that for every six “likes”, the charity got one real donation. The average donation was £32 (32 British Pounds), so therefore each like might be viewed as being worth about £5.

So, perhaps a motivated non-profit could take note of all these likes and shares, and more specifically, who is posting them and then appeal, in private, directly to them.

This might be far more productive than blanket direct-mail campaigns to age groups, political affiliations or whatever selection process is used to fill mailboxes each week with appeals for donations.

A like or a share might mean “I’m interested and maybe, I’m receptive”. It is up to the non-profit to follow up on that.

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