Not long ago, I posted my summary of a study that looked into the amount of money actually raised online by Movember. As a follow up, I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the study’s authors. A big thanks to Nugroho Dwi Prasetyo and Claudia Hauff of the Web Information Systems at Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), as well as Dong Nguyen, Djoerd Hiemstra, Tijs van den Broek from the University of Twente (Netherlands).
What were some of the reasons or rationale for choosing Movember as your subject of study?
We chose Movember for a couple of reasons. First of all, we were interested in the motivations of campaigners, and Movember provides interesting data because campaigners make a Movember profile page that explicitly contains their motivations. Previous research suggested that people that express social motivations (e.g. “joining my good friends again this year”) are reluctant to give more than token support due to a lack of interest in the campaign’s cause, hence we call them “slacktivists”. We expected Movember to be a campaign that attracts a substantial number of such slacktivists. Furthermore, Movember is a global campaign, so we expected to be able to study effects at a large scale, including the effects of different local campaigns in various countries. Last but not least, the Movember foundation is very interested in our research outcomes, and supports our work by providing additional data on web site visits and donations. We visited the Movember head quarters in the US to discuss our findings and plans.
Do you suspect that the conclusions of the study would be relevant to health charities that don’t have the brand recognition that Movember does?
Interesting question. In 2013, the hashtag #mamming went viral on Twitter. Users accompanied the hashtag #mamming with a picture, in which women placed their breasts on a daily object (e.g. a car, bar, office table, etc.). In this way, Twitter users raised awareness about the importance of breast cancer screenings to diagnose cancer in an earlier stage. This case illustrates that the mass interactivity and publicness of Twitter help campaigners to mobilize, even if they have not yet established any brand recognition: The #mamming campaign is different from #movember because it is a grassroot campaign with a bottom-up organization, rather than the top-down organization of Movember. We are now analyzing the diffusion process and characteristics of the campaign network to see if the similar conclusions hold for grassroots campaigns that do not have the brand recognition of Movember.
Do you suspect that the conclusions of your study would be similar for non-health charities, like international development, the arts, etc.?
I suspect so, the questions we study are relevant to many campaigns: The motivations of campaigners, the influence of the central campaign organization, the influence of celebrities. We might study such campaigns in the future. On 22 January 2016 we organize a Symposium SupportTheCause at the University of Twente with speakers from UCLA, Movember, Twitter, Sanquin (Blood donations in the Netherlands) and BKB Nederland (commercial campaign organizers). More information on this will follow.
During the course of the study, did any organizations besides Movember stand out to you as being particularly adept at using Twitter?
Our interests are not limited to Movember. We are analyzing multiple campaigns or cancer early detection, including #Mamming (breast cancer), #DaveDay (pancreatic cancer) and #HPVReport (cervical cancer). An increasing number of patients worldwide dies from cancer, making it one of the most urgent global healthcare issues. The WHO claims that about one third of all cancers could be prevented. Early detection of cancer could save thousands of lives yearly. Hence, it is important to raise awareness about the necessity of regular screenings and early diagnosis. Social media, such as Twitter, are gaining popularity as a medium for cancer early detection campaigns from healthcare organizations and concerned users.
Do you have any advice you would give a small charity with limited resources on how to improve their fundraising on Twitter?
From our Movember study we find that campaigners with an ‘injustice’ motivation (“I had testicular cancer” or “for my dad”) raise significantly more donations, so they are very important to such health campaigns. We also found, in the case of Movember, the biggest group of campaigners have a ‘social identity’ motivation. These campaigns raise much less if they campaign as individuals (so the “slacktivist” hypothesis seems to hold up), but in teams they raise more. Hence, giving campaigners ways to team up seems to help the campaign. Finally, we showed that having celebrities tweet about the cause has a measurable positive effect on the campaign, but in the case of Movember, the organizational tweets seem to have a bigger impact on the number of visitors to the Movember site than celebrities.