Ever wonder what liking a Facebook post or re-tweeting something for a good cause actually does for the charity involved? Not much, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.
In fact, researchers found that 'slacktivism' -- showing public support for a cause via social media without actually contributing time or resources -- could result in fewer donations.
"Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media, it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on," UBC PhD student and study co-author Kirk Kristofferson said in a statement.
To conduct the study, researchers asked participants to engage various forms of support – such as joining a Facebook group, wearing a bracelet or a pin, or signing an online petition.
Participants were later asked to donate money or volunteer for that same cause.
The researchers found that the more public the initial show of endorsement was, the less like participants were to provide meaningful support later on.
However, if the initial support was more private, such as confidentially signing a petition, participants were more likely to donate time or money to the cause at a later date.
“If charities run public token campaigns under the belief that they lead to meaningful support, they may be sacrificing their precious resources in vain,” Kristofferson said. “If the goal is to generate real support, public-facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.”
The study was published Friday in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Earlier this year, UNICEF Sweden launched a 'Likes don't Save Lives' campaign.
Through a series of commercials, the organization stressed that humanitarian organizations need cash, not clicks, to carry out their work.
However, some studies have suggested that token endorsements of support could lead toward more meaningful support in the future.
A 2011 study out of Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., found that those who support a cause online are twice as likely to volunteer their time for the cause, four times more likely to follow up by contacting a decision-maker, and five times more likely to recruit others than an individual who supports a cause offline, such as by signing a paper petition.