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Profound effects of social media overstated?

May be “more marketing than mobilization,” says UCSD professor

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While social media may have been the catalyst for launching such events as the "Arab Spring" uprisings, most rumblings of civic activism birthed on the web tend to birth much less tangible end results, a new study co-authored by UCSD sociologist Ken Lewis suggests.

According to a UCSD NewsCenter report, examination of a "Save Darfur Cause" campaign on Facebook launched through Causes.com, which "allows users to create, join and donate to a variety of causes, from helping survivors of natural disasters to aiding specific nonprofits more generally," found that of over 1 million "members" of the cause, 99.76 percent, never donated a dime to the effort. More than 72 percent of members did not recruit a single member to "join" the movement, even though the barrier to entry was garnering a single "like" click from a friend.

Save Darfur Cause, which sought to end genocide in the Sudan and was one of the largest Facebook campaigns to date, only raised about $100,000. Though the $29-per-donor fundraising average was on par with traditional mail campaigns, the participation rate of less than one-quarter percent was dwarfed by the 2 to 8 percent response traditional campaigns expect from supporters.

"The commitment might have been only as deep as a click," Lewis tells NewsCenter, positing that disseminating the idea of reform through social media might be "more marketing than mobilization."

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While social media may have been the catalyst for launching such events as the "Arab Spring" uprisings, most rumblings of civic activism birthed on the web tend to birth much less tangible end results, a new study co-authored by UCSD sociologist Ken Lewis suggests.

According to a UCSD NewsCenter report, examination of a "Save Darfur Cause" campaign on Facebook launched through Causes.com, which "allows users to create, join and donate to a variety of causes, from helping survivors of natural disasters to aiding specific nonprofits more generally," found that of over 1 million "members" of the cause, 99.76 percent, never donated a dime to the effort. More than 72 percent of members did not recruit a single member to "join" the movement, even though the barrier to entry was garnering a single "like" click from a friend.

Save Darfur Cause, which sought to end genocide in the Sudan and was one of the largest Facebook campaigns to date, only raised about $100,000. Though the $29-per-donor fundraising average was on par with traditional mail campaigns, the participation rate of less than one-quarter percent was dwarfed by the 2 to 8 percent response traditional campaigns expect from supporters.

"The commitment might have been only as deep as a click," Lewis tells NewsCenter, positing that disseminating the idea of reform through social media might be "more marketing than mobilization."

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That's because talk (and clicking) is cheap. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Attributed to Margaret Mead

March 5, 2014

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