Blog | Mar 29, 2011 | 2 Comments


[are we helping?]

The social web—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.–makes it easy for all of us to comment and share messages about social issues. We believe we’re doing good in the world, but are our actions having any measurable effect? Or are we just “slactivists”?

I first heard the term “slactivism” in a nonprofit advocacy session at SXSW.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction…Examples of activities labeled as “slacktivist” include signing internet petitions, the wearing of awareness ribbons or awareness bracelets with political messages, putting a ribbon magnet on a vehicle, writing blogs or statuses about issues on social networking sites, joining a Facebook group, posting issue-oriented YouTube videos, or altering one’s personal data or avatar on social network services.

People who believe in the power of social media hate this term.

This is a question of meaningful engagement, and it challenges marketers in for-profit corporations just as much as activists, so the debate isn’t limited to nonprofits. Some quotes from the SXSW session:

I don’t like the term “slactivism” at all. Anything that drives awareness to a cause is very valuable. Driving awareness is engagement.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends. If you like a page, it gets broadcast to your community. This is valuable activity.

If we can get someone to take any action, even clicking a “Like” button, that can lead to other things. We are now friends. We have a relationship that didn’t exist before.

Don’t say it lacks heart and soul to just watch a YouTube video. These are demonstrations of feeling and heart. You watch the story and experience emotions that make you want to do something.

Sometimes people can’t volunteer but they have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a blog. We think of them as our virtual volunteers and we appreciate them.

It turns out that the problem isn’t us—it’s the organizations we engage with.

Yep, we constituents are doing just what we should—passing on important messages from nonprofits (or businesses), effectively extending their reach and influence by lending them ours. The next step is up to them: converting us to donors, activists, board members, or avid consumers. The trick is figuring out how to do that without turning us off. It’s a different formula for each organization, based on their unique mission and the demographics (or psychographics) of their constituents.

FYI, I  recommend this excellent post from Mashable. It provides more guidance on engaging “slactivists,” and explains why we really should stop using that term.

So, if you support an organization or business online and want to do them a big favor, give them some feedback.

Tell them what they are doing right or wrong. Let them know what it would take to get you more engaged. And especially if it’s a cause you really care about, think about taking that next step in your involvement.

How do you get engaged? When do you go to the next level?

Photo credit: itsjustkate on flickr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

people can’t volunteer but they have a FB page, twitter account, blog – we are developing a virtual volunteer program to take that fi9rst step
Enhanced by Zemanta

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Thought provoking post!!!!!

I agree that the ball is definitely in the court of nonprofit organizations to be strategic with social media, and drive activities that directly support the cause. If an organization is able and willing to commit the right level of resources for a sustained period of time, social media campaigns can lead to more substantive outcomes.

For instance, the Monterey Bay Aquarium uses a sustained approach for their social media campaigns. Their campaigns are educational and actionable — a satisfying combination for some one who cares about the health of the oceans and planet.

Unfortunately, I feel donor fatigue from organizations that send alarming emails and request an immediate donation. I prefer a longer term, educational approach, with multiple opportunities to support an organization’s mission.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Great points, Patty, especially about keeping things actionable beyond just asking for money, and always being vigilant about donor fatigue. Thanks!


Patty Eaton


Leave a Reply