Slacktivists Doing More than Clicking in Support of Causes

Americans who use social media to support causes are more likely to volunteer, ask others to show support for causes

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 28, 2011) — "Slacktivists," popularly portrayed as those individuals who passively "Like" causes on Facebook but are not truly engaged, may be more active—and valuable—than previously thought. According to new findings from the Dynamics of Cause Engagement study, conducted jointly by Georgetown University's Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Americans who support causes most often by utilizing promotional social media (e.g., joining a cause group on Facebook, posting an icon on a social profile, blogging about a cause) participate in more than twice as many supportive activities (both online and offline) when compared to their non-social media promoter peers.

"This really redefines the way we think about slacktivists – how we motivate them, and how they really are engaging with and impacting causes right now," said Denise Keyes, Senior Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Social Impact Communication. "The presumption was that these individuals were replacing more 'meaningful' actions with simple clicks and shares. But what we found is that they're actually supplementing – not replacing – actions like donating, volunteering and planning events."

More 'Activist' than 'Slacktivist'

In addition to showing their support for causes via a broader array of activities, social media promoters also are more likely than non-social media promoters to participate in a number of key activities.

  • They are twice as likely to volunteer their time (30% vs. 15%) and to take part in an event or walk (25% vs. 11%).
     
  • They are more than four times as likely to encourage others to contact political representatives (22% vs. 5%), and five times as likely to recruit others to sign petitions for a cause or social issue (20% vs. 4%).

And perhaps most surprising, given the common "slacktivist" portrayal, they are equally likely as non-social media promoters to donate their money in support of a cause (41% vs. 41%).

"The key takeaway is that many of the activities that slacktivists are more likely to undertake have this element of influence," said Jennifer Wayman, Executive Vice President and Director of Social Marketing at Ogilvy Washington. "They are more likely to share what they're doing with their networks, and there's real value inherent in these relatively small actions that should not be underestimated."

The Need for Integration

Despite the encouraging findings, practitioners and organizations are cautioned to not focus entirely on social media when asking for support for their causes. Previous releases from the study, available online at http://bit.ly/dynamicsresearch, highlight the continued importance of historically prominent types of engagement (e.g. donating money, volunteering), as well as point to the potential risks of digital tools as drivers of cause fatigue as their adoption rates increase. Overall study results reinforce the need for integration, combining multiple strategies to offer supporters a wide variety of engagement opportunities.

This is the final data to be released from the study, which examined trends in cause involvement among American adults age 18 and over, in addition to highlighting the roles of a variety of activities in fostering engagement with social issues.

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