The Dynamics of Cause Engagement

Apr 19

How has the digital revolution changed the way Americans get involved with causes and social issues?

Illustration by Gerardo Obieta

Lately, we have seen a lot of discussion on the impact of digital media on cause involvement.  “Twitter revolution” and “slactivism” are terms that are now part of the social causes lexicon.

As in all good debates, different points of view have emerged.  Some believe that online activism creates loose ties which aren’t strong enough to propel signficant social movements; while others are advocates of the power of social media to create positive social change.

To add a new perspective to this debate, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide conducted a study in partnership with the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University to explore the current dynamics of cause engagement from the consumers’ standpoint.

The results of this study were presented for the first time last week at the 2nd World Non-profit and Social Marketing Conference in Dublin, Ireland.

Here are some of the key findings that we shared:

  • Tradition Reigns Supreme: Despite the increased efforts of organizations to engage supporters through social media, our research revealed that various promotional social media activities — such as joining cause groups, posting a logo on social networking sites, and writing on blogs — are most often not the first line of engagement with causes and issues.  Rather, the more historically prominent types of engagement (e.g., donating money, volunteering, learning more about the cause) remain the first and most often means of consumer involvement.
  • Strategic Social Media Can Broaden Engagement:  Although promotional social media activities may not be on top of the list of ways Americans currently engage with causes, consumers recognize the importance of social media in facilitating the support of causes:
    • 57% of Americans agree that online social networking sites allow people to support causes more easily; and
    • 40% feel they can get the word out about a social issue or cause through online social networks.
  • So-called Slactivists: More Active Than You May Think:  Contrary to the assumption that the support of causes through social media would preclude more significant contributions, our study found that Americans who selected a promotional social media activity among the ways in which they most often get involved with causes are:
    • Just as likely as non-social media cause supporters to donate money;
    • Twice as likely to volunteer as non-social media cause supporters; and
    • Twice as likely to participate in events and walks.

In fact, Americans who support causes through promotional social media are involved in a significantly higher number of engagement activities, revealing that social media activities are being added to the range of historically prominent types of cause engagement activities instead of replacing them.

Our study additionally found higher utilization of social media for engaging with causes among particular demographic segments, namely women, younger generations, African Americans, and Hispanics.

Surprised by the findings?  Please share your thoughts.

For more information on the study, click here and stay tuned for upcoming webinars.  We’ll be discussing the implications of the study for practitioners.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 at 3:00 am and is filed under Behavior Change, Ogilvy Washington, Resources, Social Marketing, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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