Social media has become a key driver for social good, providing a gateway to more traditional methods of generating support and involvement for causes, according to a new study, “Digital Persuasion: How Social Media Motivates Action and Drives Support for Causes,” released by Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide’s social innovation practice.

The study found that more than half (55 percent) of digitally active, cause-savvy American adults were likely to do far more than simply “like” a cause. Engaging with causes via social media prompted them to donate money (68 percent), donate personal items or food (52 percent), attend or participate in an event (43 percent), and even volunteer (53 percent).

Survey respondents named social media as their top source of information about the causes they support. This is true even for respondents who only support their chosen causes offline.

“More than idle chatter and pop-culture memes, social media is being used as a force for good that leads people to action,” says Denise Keyes, executive director, Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication. “The study demonstrates that these tools can go beyond just building awareness and creating connections to compel meaningful, measurable action.”

Among survey respondents, four distinct categories of supporters emerged—referred to as Mainstreeters (active on social media, but only support causes offline); minimalists (only support causes online); moderates (balance offline support with online actions, such as liking a cause on Facebook); and maximizers (support an average of 12 different causes—nearly twice as much as any other category—online and off).

Other key findings:
• 54 percent of respondents indicate they are more likely to support a cause through social media rather than offline.
• More than half of survey respondents (55 percent) who engaged with causes via social media have been inspired to take further action.
• 76 percent agree that it’s important to them to influence others to care about the charities and causes they care about.
• Respondents recognize the growing role of social media in effectively getting the word out about global causes.
• 82 percent agree that social media is effective in getting more people to talk about causes or issues.
• The most popular way people get involved in global causes is by supporting on social media (38 percent), followed by mailing a donation (27 percent), and making a donation online or signing an online petition (tied at 25 percent).