Like, like, like, donate ~ or ~ The clever way that GetUp uses Facebook

If you want to be cynical, charities work on a simple model. They point out a problem, and then use a mix of guilt and sympathy to get us to donate. “Look at this problem. Isn’t it terrible? If you give us money we’ll do something to fix it.” Basically, it’s a kind of outsourcing.

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Now you don’t need to feel hopeless or useless in the face of human suffering. You’re doing something useful: you’re paying someone to fix it.

At some point political activists realised that this was a model that could work for them. They don’t ask us to man the barricades anymore. Instead they get us to pay them to man the barricades on our behalf. The buzz phrase is “outsourcing our activism”. Now we see it all the time.

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The whales are in danger from the Japanese? Give money to Sea Shepherd. The wilderness is under threat from big mining? Give money to The Wilderness Society.

This model has an inbuilt dilemma, though. To keep us engaged as an audience, they need to make us continually feel like we’re doing something useful. BUT they can only ask us for money so many times in a year before they piss us off. So they need to give us something else to do that we’ll find meaningful.

The problem is, it’s expensive to keep finding “meaningful somethings” for us to do. Plus, it’s even more expensive to spend the time to package them in a way that makes them easy to act on.

This is where GetUp’s work on Facebook is so clever.

Yes, they’re still doing their standard “we’ve got an ad and we need money to publish/broadcast it” campaigns, like this one that raises funds to print a newspaper ad in February:

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But these campaigns are only run infrequently so they don’t use up their community’s “donation” energy.

Most of their campaigns are from a second tier. And this tier, while providing us with “meaningful somethings” to do, has cost them little more than a couple of emails to produce. How have they done that? They’ve been very clever and outsourced both their production and the activism. Like with this post here.

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The basic model has been kept the same. “Look at this problem. Isn’t it terrible? If you give us money we’ll do something to fix it.” They’ve just replaced “give us money” with “click on this link” and outsourced “do something to fix it” to another organisation.

The post hasn’t cost them anything to create because it’s been organised by the MEAA. GetUp isn’t responsible for delivering on the promise: that’s the MEAA’s job too. Plus, because the call to action is “Join” GetUp aren’t using up their community’s “donation” energy even though they are providing their followers with a “meaningful something”.

If the model works so well for GetUp, it begs the question: how can the rest of us use it?

My friends the idiots.

I have around 375 friends on Facebook. It’s not a huge number, but it’s manageable. Some are best mates I’ve known for years, some are mere acquaintances I’ve met less than a handful of times. And some of them are so stupid I’m beginning to wonder how they function in normal society on a daily basis.

Ok, so maybe that’s a bit harsh. What’s a more appropriate word…um, naïve? No. Reactionary? No, that’s not quite right either.

What the Facebook privacy scam revealed about Facebook users: theyre gullible idiots    Screen Shot 2012 11 28 at 11.41.35 AM 234x275

The Facebook warning spread by the temporarily stupid

But if I was a lawyer representing them in court, I’d plead guilty for them on the grounds of temporary stupidity. “I’m sorry, Your Honour, they received a post detailing a loophole in Facebook’s privacy settings. They simply had to post it to their wall without thinking for the good of the nation. I promise, this act of wanton imbecility is totally out of character.”

15 of my Facebook friends. Fifteen. One-five people, who are of at least above average intelligence re-posted that Facebook Privacy loophole statement to their wall on Monday. There were probably more, but I was saved their blushes by Facebook’s “yeah you probably don’t need to see that” matrix.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the need to be the first on your wall to share a seemingly vital piece of Internet gold. We’re all human and we’ve all got Klout scores to maintain. But have we seriously reached a point in out lives where the need to be ‘first’ with shared information overrides our need to be right?

Now, any one of my friends unlucky enough to find themselves stuck in the vortex of asinine ephemera that I smear onto my Facebook wall will attest to the fact that my standards are pretty low. But they do exist. I rarely get political, I rarely do causes other than to push my own barrow and I rarely, if ever, pass on third party legal statements that promise absolution from potential, imaginary, bad-court-thingies.

Ok, so maybe by now I’ve got a few less friends, but if I’m losing the kinds of weak links that lack the common sense to know that the page you had to like to watch that video of a “naughty schoolgirl being caught by her father doing something” is going to plaster itself all over your newsfeed, then I’m probably not losing much.

The same goes for those “1. Click the picture. 2. Type “I’m a moron” in the comments. 3. See what happens!” posts. You know what happens? All your friends slap their foreheads and second-guess whether to just hide your activity or straight up un-friend you.

These are all different kettles of fish, of course. But the thing that irked me so much about the Facebook Privacy Scam post was the way people were willing to freely share something they clearly knew so little about, yet trusted implicitly.

What made everyone believe this? Was it the relative trustworthiness of the person who first posted it to their wall? Was it the fact that it quoted some legal sounding thing and a law with a long, impressive looking number attached to it? Or was it simply the allure of the being the first to post within their wider friendship group that deactivated the safety switch that normally stops us replying to emails from Nigerian Princes to divulge our bank details and mother’s maiden name?

Or is it simply because we’ve all accepted that many terms and conditions and End User License Agreements without reading what we’re agreeing to that we’re all completely oblivious to our actual rights and responsibilities online? Are we so scared of the imagined consequences we ignored when we signed on that we’re willing to chuck in our credibility for a hoax?

It’s nothing new. In fact, it would appear my usually clever, brilliant, hilarious and lovely friends have simply fallen for the oldest sales trick in the book. Fear, Exclusivity, Greed, Guilt, Need for approval.

The social media landscape is littered with hoaxes. All designed to make us look fegg’n stupid. It seems some people are forgetting to tread carefully.

*This article first appeared in Mumbrella on 28/11/2012