Engage people in activating their social networks
Want to get people to care about things and act in the Internet age? These 10 ideas, based on sociological experiments, can help refine your message to actually engage people in activating their social networks–real and virtual.
1. Good deeds are contagious
We naturally imitate the people around us, we adopt their ideas about appropriate behavior, and we feel what they feel. Acts of charity are no exception. In our 2010 generosity experiment (PDF), we showed that every extra dollar of giving in a game designed to measure altruism caused people who saw that giving to donate an extra twenty cents.
2. The network acts like a matching grant
That same experiment showed that contagious generosity spreads up to three steps through the network (from person to person to person to person), and when we added up all the extra donations that resulted at every step, we found that an extra dollar in giving yielded three extra dollars by everyone else in the network.
3. Messages get amplified when they spread naturally
People are bombarded by information and appeals every day, especially in our newly mobile and tech-centered society, so the effect of any one appeal to do a good deed may get lost. But don’t underestimate the effect of a broadcasting strategy. Our research on get-out-the-vote appeals suggests that the indirect effect of a message on a person’s friends is about three times larger than the direct effect on the person who received the message in the first place. The more you can get people to deliver the message naturally, the greater this multiplier effect will be.
4. Close friends matter more
When we studied behaviors like obesity, smoking, and drinking, we found that spouses, siblings, and friends had an effect on each other’s behavior, but next door neighbors did not. So any attempt to change people’s behavior should probably focus on motivating these “strong ties” rather than broadcasting to a wide range of weak connections.
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