Petter Bae Brandtzæg and Ida Maria Haugstveit at SINTEF have been mapping the habits of more than 400 Facebook users recruited from Plan Norge’s Facebook page. The aim was to identify their motives in ‘liking’ a particular humanitarian cause or organisation on Facebook.
Facts about the project:
• The study has been published by the International Journal of Web Based Communities.
• The project is affiliated to the delTA project and is funded by the Research Council of Norway. Its aim is to study new types of online social responsibility among young people.
• As well as SINTEF, other participants in the delTA project include NRK, Plan Norge, Amedia, Kongsvinger municipality and the School of Architecture and Design.
Six different motives
The researchers asked the users to answer three main questions. Firstly, did they think that ‘liking’ on Facebook actually supported humanitarian causes? Secondly, what was it that motivated them to ‘like’ humanitarian causes? And finally, why did the users decide to ‘unlike’ humanitarian causes on Facebook?
“We discovered that there were about six different ways of using ‘likes’ in relation to support for humanitarian causes”, says Petter Brandtzæg. “For some people, it was about taking social responsibility. Other people clicked ‘like’ based on an immediate emotional response. A third group wanted to find out more information about the cause, while a fourth wanted to appear to their friends as socially responsible. Then there were those who clicked ‘like’ because it costs so little to ‘like’, and finally those who did this out of habit.
The majority of those asked thought that these ‘likes’ helped to promote humanitarian causes and their work. Only a few users went no further than simply ‘liking’ organisations or issues related to humanitarian causes.
The researchers believe that it is important to be aware that for people who ‘like’ humanitarian causes on Facebook, this is not just an opportunity to support a cause. It is also a chance to promote their own commitment and market themselves, as well as encourage others to ‘like’ the same thing.
“Facebook offers a new type of social responsibility and humanitarian support – a kind of ‘low threshold activism’ in which it is easy for everyone to support a cause, no matter how much time, space or money they have”, says Brandtzæg.
• The 'like' button on Facebook was introduced as a function in 2009. It allows users to support and follow updates of a particular organisation, company or suchlike.
But 'liking' a page is also a way of making it available to their friends and acquaintances, and of adding their own comments.
Underlying social motives
‘Likes’ on Facebook are often accused of being simple ‘show-off’ actions, but this study shows that people who ‘like’ a humanitarian cause believe that their action can make a difference. This tendency was reinforced by the fact that the method of socially responsible ‘liking’ was the most common motivation for ‘liking’ a humanitarian cause.
“Social motives and an emotional reaction show that users are more likely to ‘like’ or follow a page rather than just search for information and news”, says Brandtzæg.
You can see the article here: http://www.inderscience.com/info/ingeneral/forthcoming.php?jcode=ijwbc