Tweeting about my moustache

How Online Identity influences Collected Donations inOnline Health Campaigns

by Anna Priante, Michel Ehrenhard, Tijs van der Broek, Ariana Need, Djoerd Hiemstra

Health advocacy organizations increasingly use social media to engage people in fundraising campaigns for medical research, such as cancer prevention. However, little is known about the effectiveness of online health campaigns and the psychosocial mechanisms that drive people’s voluntary engagement to collect money for medical research. By using identity-based motivation theory from social psychology, we focus on campaign participants’ online occupational identity, such as being a doctor, and how it provides motivation to collect donations. We investigate the mechanisms, such as fundraisers’ Twitter activity as a cognitive process and their central network positions in online communication, that mediate the relationship between identity and donations. We adopt a multi-method approach combining automatic text analysis, Natural Language Processing from computational linguistics, social network analysis and multivariate regression analysis. Using the 2014 US Movember health movement campaign on Twitter as an empirical context, we find that when people are engaged in health fundraising on Twitter, their success depends on the extent to which they act in occupational identity-congruent ways. In addition, we find that fundraisers’ Twitter activity as a sense-making, cognitive process - and not their central positions in online communication - mediates the relation between identity and donations. We show the importance of integrating both people’s social identification and cognitive processes into theory and research for a better understanding of how occupational identity matters in online health campaigns. This study offers contributions to research at the intersection of health advocacy, social media use, and, more broadly, online social movements. We conclude by discussing the practical implications of these findings for health advocacy organizations.

To be presented at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA 2018) on 11-14 August 2018 in Philadelphia, USA.

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