New Research on Charity via Social Media

Widespread social media use is impacting just about every aspect of life. Users around the globe are employing social media to connect and engage. Businesses, organizations and state institutions have all found social media to be of immense benefit in reaching their audiences effectively.

My team at the SMART Lab in Scripps College of Communication at Ohio university keenly observes and researches the various social media affordances. One such affordance is the use of social media to promote charitable causes.

We concentrated our efforts to look outside the developed world to understand how users in regions that are directly impacted by the digital divide (both access and skills) employ social media such as Twitter.

We gathered online social data from an interesting and unique charity initiative called the Wall of Kindness that gained significant prominence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Our study is titled:

“Communicating on Twitter for Charity: Understanding the Walls of Kindness Initiative in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan”

The study’s abstract is as follows:

This study highlights the important role of social media for charity through an analysis of tweets about the “Wall of Kindness” charity initiative in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, we employ a theoretical lens of Social Influence to explore how individuals and organizations employed Twitter to promote charitable initiatives. User engagement on Twitter centered on content sharing, identification through hashtags, and imitative behaviors promoted the Wall of Kindness initiative across countries. Results from the thematic analysis revealed that Twitter users were tweeting about the Wall of Kindness to provide information, encourage donations, inspire others into action, and build an online community. Our content analysis revealed that a majority of the tweets were neutral and supportive of the initiative; users mostly shared textual information, followed by images, videos, tweeted news links, and solicited donations about the Wall of Kindness. Furthermore, media organizations, wall enthusiasts, and journalists were most active in tweeting about the charity initiative. Implications for future research are discussed.

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