Stamp Out Hunger, Peer Pressure and Twitter

June 4, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Stamp Out Hunger was a Food Drive organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers (US)   They asked people to leave bags filled with non-perishable food items next to their mailbox on Saturday May 9th, 2009 that letter carriers would pick up and deliver to local food banks.

Now I knew nothing about this initiative – but on the day of the drive I noticed there were about a hundred tweets on the subject (see just a few examples below). People mentioning that they were contributing and reminding each other to donate.

The letter carriers collected 300,000 pounds of food and I’m certainly not proposing that this was the result of social media but it’s helpful to see at how social media can supplement and work with offline initiatives. The idea was not to donate online – but offline  – and the initiative helped “in the real world”.

And the kind of tweets we saw served several purposes (including):

  1. They reminded people – some of whom might have been inclined to donate but lives are busy
  2. They made it trendy – now this seems like a superficial concept but there’s an idea in behavioral economics which, put simply, addresses that people want to do what is the norm. (The book “Nudge” discusses this with regards to energy conservation (see this “Seed” article for a more thorough explanation.
  3. “Our survey of nearly 2,500 Californians showed that those who thought their neighbors were conserving were more likely to conserve themselves,” [Robert] Cialdini said in written testimony – “Peer Pressure Best Motivator When it Comes to Energy Saving, Psychologists Tell House Panel” – APA release

Unlike the types of peer pressure demonstrated in videos my school was forced to watch (they involved singing ditties to ward off sex), here are people doing positive things as a result of their peer’s influence .

The tweets appeared to make donating to this cause the norm. Imagine seeing several of your peers talk about contributing to a cause – it makes you feel more motivated to do something… It seems like this is often what happens when you see several tweets on a particular topic/initiative.   It’s sort of a tidal wave of motivation.

Your thoughts?


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