This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center

This study examined the influence of social ties on individuals’ civic engagement on Facebook. An experiment was used to explore the impact of strong social ties (e.g., parents, extended family, and/or close friends) and weak social ties on individuals’ intentions to participate in social advocacy campaigns. Specifically, this study examined the effect of collective efficacy, or the perceived mobilization ability of the online community, on collective action. A positive association was observed. Results also indicated that specific variables impacted an individual’s likelihood to participate in collective actions.

The researchers conducted an experiment with three conditions to analyze how strong and weak social ties on Facebook may impact individuals’ engagement in a fundraising campaign for veterans. Strong vs. weak vs. control conditions were randomly assigned to 231 participants on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (M-Turk) to examine how social influences may motivate individuals’ intentions to participate in collective actions.

Key Findings

  • There were no significant differences between the effects of strong-tie and weak-tie networks on individuals’ intentions to participate in collective actions on Facebook.
  • Collective efficacy was found to be a strong predictor in individuals’ intentions to participate in collective actions on Facebook.
  • Similar to research on how varying strengths of social ties effects online communities, participants in the strong-tie networking condition found that interacting with strong ties helped them to gain emotional support and strengthen their existing offline relationships.
  • Participants in the weak-tie groups maintained virtual social relationships through following the official public Facebook pages from the local community, non-profit organizations, multinational corporations, sports celebrities, artists, and news/TV show networks, which satisfied their information seeking and emotional support
  • Generally, participants in the weak-tie groups followed Facebook pages that demonstrated homophily (pages that represented like-minded people).

 Implications for Practice
Through creating shared values, public relations professionals should consider how to strategically cultivate relationships by engaging stakeholders with informative and inspiring content to promote civic engagement toward social advocacy campaigns.

When aiming to create shared meaning and engage individuals in a campaign, public relations professionals should consider partnering with other organizations on social advocacy campaigns to demonstrate a homogenous organizational network, attracting individuals with weak ties.

When public relations professionals are deciding which social causes to develop thought leadership programs around, they should consider choosing social issues that are highly regarded, such as the veterans affairs cause used in this study, which resulted in positive attitudes toward the issue.

You, L., & Hon, L. (2019). How social ties contribute to collective actions on social media: A social capital approach. Public Relations Review45(4), 101771.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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