Over at orgtheory.com, Brayden King pointed to two recent studies on online activism. In their study on “The Structure of Online Activism” (PDF), published in the newly founded Open Access journal Sociological Science, Kevin Lewis, Kurt Gray and Jens Meierhenrich investigate participation around a Facebook “Cause” on Darfur. “Causes” is a platform for online activism which is linked to and builds upon Facebook and the latter’s possibility to recruit your Facebook friends for a certain cause. The cause under study was a campaign on Darfur with over 1.2 million supporters. The authors had access to great longitudinal network data and investigated how the decision to publicly support the cause on Facebook had translated into further support later on. The disillusioning result (p. 2):
99.76 percent of members never donated[.]
To a certain degree, the results of the paper corroborate what is known as the 1% rule on the internet. The overly large majority of an online community contributes nothing, only one percent is responsible for nearly all of the content; in the Darfur case even fewer people (0.24 percent) contributed in form of donations. Compared to traditional forms of mobilizing this is a very poor conversion rate, as reported by Lewis et al. (p. 4):
Mail solicitations, meanwhile, typically generate rates of 2 percent to 8 percent of people donating $10 to $50 each[.]
Furthermore, activism levels decreased quickly over time (see Figure 1).