UNICEF is the first organization that is stating the obvious and encouraging “slacktivists” to give more than a millisecond to “like” a page or Facebook meme. UNICEF ads that state “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio” and parody commercials spark conversation about how effective social promotion is versus donations and volunteering. Social-promotion also makes organizations rethink the motives of social media campaigns and how they are to use the viral sphere to generate monetary support.
Social sharing is no doubt helpful in generating conversation and awareness, but the reality of the matter is that Facebook likes don’t save lives. However, people that socially promote a cause, whether they are long-time supports or just jumping on the band-wagon, prove to have just as much potential in donating or volunteering as non-social-promoters. In a 2,000-person study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy Worldwide, social promoters were just as likely as non-social-promoters to give money and slightly more likely to volunteer their time. In another 2011 study by the Internet Journal First Monday, Henrik Serup Christensen found that online activities didn’t reduce off-line mobilization. “It is at worst harmless fun and can at best help invigorate citizens,” said Christensen.
On the other side of the argument “slacktivists” are actually less than what they sound like and are simply bored internet users posting another status update. Zeynep Tufekci, a sociology professor and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, explained the social-promotion phenomena as non-activists taking symbolic action to utilize and open spheres traditionally used solely by professionals and activists. Basically, organizations such as UNICEF should not worry about these “slacktivists” because they were never money donating, activists in the first place.