What We Learned About You: VegFund’s Survey of Animal Activists

Just who is your average animal rights activist? VegFund wanted to find out — and what we found out is that there is no “average” animal rights activist — you are a diverse and highly active bunch!

In August 2017, VegFund surveyed vegan activists to learn more about your backgrounds and experiences in vegan advocacy. The results will help guide us in refining and expanding our grant programming, resources, and systems to support your excellent work. We hope you will find them interesting too.

VegFund distributed the survey at the Animal Rights National Conference in Washington, D.C., and the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg. We also emailed the survey to more than 3,600 individuals on our email list and posted it on our website and through our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter). The following is a summary of the survey results as of September 11, 2017, at which time we had received 429 responses.

What We Learned

The Basics

Locations: VegFund supports vegan advocates worldwide with grant funding and online resources. As a U.S.-based organization, the majority of our grantees are located in the United States, but we have an ever-growing international base of grantees.

This map indicates where our grantees are located, followed by a “top three” overview (country, city, U.S. state).

Q3 Location

Top three countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada

Top three cities:

  • Toronto, Canada
  • New York, United States
  • Cape Town, South Africa

Top three U.S .states:

  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania/Florida

Age: Activism is not just for the young crowd. Eighty-eight percent of our respondents are between the ages of 26 and 55-plus.

Q4_age

Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents were millennials (age range 26–40), but we were pleasantly surprised to see a broad range of ages represented, with 60% of respondents being over the age of 40.

Gender: Females appear to be the more active gender in vegan outreach (72% of respondents), which is consistent with other findings in the AR/vegan movement — either that or they are more active in completing surveys (“self-selection” bias). Twenty-six percent of respondents were male. Let’s boost that number!

Vegan and Advocate Identity

Now, let’s dive into some of the interesting stuff. What aspects of vegan advocacy inspire and motivate vegan activists?

The insights that follow are an overview of some of the key questions from this survey, but they are not inclusive of all data gathered.

Path to becoming vegan

A large majority of respondents were motivated by animal welfare concerns (88%) on their path to becoming vegan, and most transitioned from being vegetarian to vegan (74%). A significant number of people (32%) were also motivated by health and environmental concerns. We anticipate that health and environmental concerns will become a greater motivating factor as the significant effects of animal agriculture and meat consumption in both areas continue to gain publicity.

Q12_journey

What you like best about being vegan

Using a word cloud, we generated a display of 1100 open-ended responses to the question “What are three words or phrases that capture what you like best about being vegan.” While the word cloud is hardly analytical, it’s certainly powerful in conveying the values around your vegan lifestyle and activism.

Q14 Word Cloud - What liked best about being vegan

The words “compassion,” “health,” and “animal” appeared more than 100 times. Many statements expressed emotions such as happiness, love, empathy, and anger, while others noted data or facts. Environmental and personal health and the concept of living one’s values also appeared a number of times.

Vegan values

We asked activists to rate how well they identify with each of the following three statements (most strongly, somewhat strongly, least strongly).

Eating vegan food makes me feel healthy and has improved my daily life. This aspect of my lifestyle makes me feel healthier and good about myself Most strongly 12%
Somewhat strongly 22%
Least strongly 66%
Adopting a vegan lifestyle lets me be a conscious consumer. My daily purchases reflect my values regarding climate change and animals. I’m proud of this aspect of my life and know that I’m living my values with my dollars and behaviors. Most strongly 45%
Somewhat strongly 48%
Least strongly 7%
Being a vegan means I’m part of a community that cares about health, the earth, and animals. My veganism is part of my identity; I love spending time fighting for animal rights and environmental protection. Most strongly 54%
Somewhat strongly 28%
Least strongly 17%

Fifty-four percent of our grantees emphasized the importance of being part of a compassionate community and highlighted their passion for spending time speaking up for animals and the environment.

These responses point to the importance of community and sharing as primary motivators for our grantees’ veganism and advocacy efforts.

Grantee Advocacy Interests

The survey asked a number of questions relating specifically to the outreach activities and interests of current and potential VegFund grantees.

What kinds of activism are you engaged in?

Activists surveyed are involved in diverse types of outreach activities — from event organizing, leafleting and food sampling to online campaigns, screenings and video outreach, and everything else in-between!

Q9_what-kinds_3

We learned that vegfests are the most popular form of community outreach used by respondents, which is a supporting factor in VegFund’s project to launch a vegfest community of practice — the Vegfest Organizers’ Network.

If you are involved in vegfests and would like more information on the Vegfest Organizers’ Network, please join our mailing list. The vision of this community is to mine and share the extensive practical knowledge of vegfest organizers. Lessons learned will serve as the basis for trainings, technical assistance, and resource development funded by VegFund with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of vegfests everywhere.

Other popular forms of outreach fall within the core VegFund grant program areas, which we were pleased to see.

How many animal-right-related events do you participate in annually as an activist?

Forty-five percent of respondents participate in 10 or more outreach events each year. That’s impressive stuff!

Q10_how_many

How would you describe your feelings about activism/advocacy?

We asked activists to select the statements below that most apply to them regarding how they feel about their activist work. The need for more time to devote to activism (50%) and adequate funding (55%) rated high (help us spread the word that VegFund is dedicated to supporting vegan activists through grant funding!) Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that engaging in online communities for connection and growth is important to them. Twenty-nine percent prefer to volunteer as their form of activism, and some individuals (12%) prefer not to engage in one-on-one activism or find activism daunting.

Q11_types_of_activism_2

Inspiring the Future Generations of Vegans and Advocates

We asked respondents what they think are the best ways to inspire others to get involved in vegan activism. The responses were thoughtful and detailed, and — because it was an open-ended question — not simple to summarize. Some of the themes that emerge are empowering others; providing skills, mentorship, and training; making it fun, inclusive, and simple to take action; focusing on the impact of activism; sharing success stories; meeting farm animals; creating volunteer opportunities; avoiding evangelizing; and meeting people where they are/finding what resonates with them.

In your opinion, who are the three audiences most amenable to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

When asked to consider what audiences are most easy to persuade in terms of adopting a vegan lifestyle, respondents highlighted the following:

  • people motivated by animal suffering – 81%
  • people motivated by health or environment – 61%
  • people who are already vegetarian – 60%
  • anyone who will listen – 26%
  • people of a specific age group (please specify) – 22%
  • people in urban areas – 21%
  • those who know nothing about veganism – 8%
  • other (please specify) – 36%

The “other” responses were varied, but these responses suggested that people under 25 years of age are considered the most amenable to adopting a vegan lifestyle, which is consistent with other research in this area.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to complete this survey. Your thoughtful feedback will help guide VegFund’s program development in support of our current and new grantees.

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All percentages given are in relation to the number of respondents to the survey and number of responses allowed per question.

 

 

VegFund in San Diego

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the San Diego VegFest!

VegFund was a sponsor; here is the speakers’ table:

20150426_103756

I gave a version of this talk: Embrace and Encourage: Lessons from Three Decades.

mattsandiegobw2
And met with lots of people at the VegFund table!

mattatvegfundtable

Hope to meet with more of you in the future!

-Matt

 

The Health Argument vs. Ethical Argument: Which Is More Powerful?

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

IMG_5438

Cease Animal Torture hosts a table at their university in California, including some vegan health information and an environmental argument for going vegan.

“I’m vegan because I’m really concerned about animal welfare.” “I chose to become a vegetarian because I wanted to lose weight.” “The environment really suffers from animal agriculture, and that’s why I chose not to eat meat.”

All of these are common reasons for choosing and maintaining a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, but is there one reason that’s more common among non-meat eaters? Are health arguments more convincing than ethical arguments? Activists could benefit from knowing these answers because they are frequently questioned about the reason(s) behind their lifestyle choice. By knowing which argument is most effective, activists could be more fruitful in encouraging their audience to choose vegetarianism or veganism.

Published research studies on vegetarianism reveal that there are two primary motivations for a meat-free diet: health concerns and ethical considerations (Fox & Ward, 2008). A recent online study conducted by Winthrop University showed that a majority of vegetarians (including vegans) chose to be and stayed vegetarian for ethical reasons. A little over 80 percent of the subjects that were surveyed online stated that their original reason for becoming vegetarian was of an ethical nature. Almost 83 percent of those subjects also stated ethical reasons for why they have remained vegetarian (Hoffman et al., 2013).

So now that we have this information, how can we as activists use it to our advantage?

Because a majority of people choose to be vegetarian and remain vegetarian due to ethical concerns, an ethical argument is what we can best use to persuade our audience to choose a compassionate lifestyle. Here are some tips on how to be as effective as possible during activism:

  • Make your words powerful. This is especially important. Try to use strong, vivid language as you share with your audience the facts and atrocities behind factory farming and why you believe it isn’t ethical.
  • Create powerful imagery. Ask them if they can picture their cat or dog in the same place as a factory farmed pig, cow, or chicken. That’s something that is sure to stay with them.
  • Prepare. This is something so crucial for activists. If you want to appeal to people with an ethical argument, it is important to know your facts. Maybe you can learn the statistics on the numbers of animals killed or harmed, specific types of abuses, and answers to some common objections you will hear.
  • Be positive. In addition to sharing negative statistics, you may also want to spread awareness of how many animals’ lives are saved each year just by maintaining a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
  • Be confident. This may be easier said than done, but showing confidence really makes a difference during activism. If you believe in yourself and what you are saying, your audience will have an easier time believing you!

Do you have any great activist tips? Please share them with us in the comments!

References:

Fox, N. & Ward, K. (2008). Health, ethics and environment: A qualitative study of vegetarian motivations. Appetite, 50(2-3), 422-429.

Hoffman, S.R. et al. (2013). Differences between health and ethical vegetarians. Strength of conviction, nutrition knowledge, dietary restriction, and duration of adherence. Appetite, 65, 139-144.

Why We’re Winning (Talk in Phoenix)

Matt Ball in PhoenixAll the best public speakers know it is key to start with a joke, so here goes:

This past June, I nearly died.

What? Not funny?

As with many people who almost die, I found myself thinking a lot about what is most important. In doing so, I realized much of what seems to be important really isn’t.

But another thought occurred to me: How would the world have been different if I had died? Beyond my immediate circle of friends and family, what really would have changed?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is a good question to ask, especially in regard to our activism. How many people here are vegan? So many of us see veganism as the pinnacle, as the end point. I know I certainly did. But if that’s the extent of it — if all we do is not eat animals or animal products — then what would it matter if we died tomorrow?

Luckily, everyone here tonight is dedicated to having a constructive, positive impact on the world. We’ve all gone beyond the passive philosophy of “Do no harm” to the active goal of “Do good.” If any of us died tomorrow, the world really would be a worse place in the long run.

There have been many people dedicated to the concept of “Do good.” But history shows good intentions aren’t enough.

In her introduction, Anne noted the great successes we are having [legal protections; better and more widespread vegan options; Presidents, Vice Presidents, athletes and celebrities going vegan; the number of animals slaughtered down by hundreds of millions each year], and that we are winning on every front. But we aren’t winning simply because we want to win. Rather, we are winning because more and more people are dedicated to doing the most good, to having the biggest possible impact.

This wasn’t always the case when it came to the animals. Even though almost 99% of the animals killed every year die to be eaten, 25 years ago, we focused most of our efforts on fur and vivisection. This was true for me as well.

Now obviously, this isn’t to say the animals killed for fur or vivisection don’t deserve our consideration. Of course they do. But if we give all animals equal consideration, it would be hard to argue that we should spend our extremely limited time and resources on something other than the 99% who die to be eaten.

One of the many, many, many mistakes I made over the past quarter century was failing to realize that when we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do another.

Think about it this way: We could spend our entire life trying to free a bear from a Siberian zoo. The bear is obviously worthy of consideration, and winning his freedom would be a victory. But the opportunity costs are significant. If we instead spend that time and money advocating for farmed animals and promoting cruelty-free eating, we would have a much, much greater impact in the world.

So here’s the punch line: Because there is so much suffering in the world, and our resources are so very limited, we are morally obligated – morally obligated – to pursue the course of action that will have the greatest impact. We must base our choices on what will reduce suffering as much as possible.

In other words, we owe it to the animals to give them the biggest bang for the buck.

If we want a vegan world, we have to convince more and more people to stop eating animals. It really is that simple. And this is what we strive to do at VegFund, where I work. VegFund is driving the actions that are building the vegan world as effectively and efficiently as possible. We fund online ads, pay-per-view videos, food sampling, and movie screenings. We leverage the passion and opportunities of activists around the world to give the animals the biggest bang for the buck.

25 years ago, most of us — myself included — adopted the “do something, do anything” approach to activism. We protested whatever was right in front of us, or what was in the news, or whatever personally upset us.

Now, however, more and more of us are dedicated to optimal advocacy, to working for the 99%. We use the latest psychological research and most modern tools available, and we strive to make sure our limited time and resources have the greatest possible impact.

This is why we are now winning. This is why we will win.

And each of our lives will matter, and each of our lives will be memorable. Thank you for being a part of this vital work.

-Matt Ball
Senior Advisor

You can be a part of this work today by just clicking here!

Caring for Animals and Caring for Yourself: Combatting Activist Burnout

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern 

Open the Cages Alliance vegan pledges and mentor trip to For the Animals Sanctuary.

Open the Cages Alliance vegan pledges and mentors trip to For the Animals Sanctuary.

Have you ever felt drained and disheartened after an animal rights outreach event? Do you feel as though your activism work is less interesting or exciting? If so, then it is possible you are feeling burned out.

By definition, activist burnout “is a phenomenon that occurs when an activist feels overwhelmed, frustrated, hopeless, or depressed, usually after a period of extensive activism.” Recognizing common burnout symptoms is the first step on the way to a healthier you; some of these symptoms include: loss of interest in usual activism activities, a sense of hopelessness, feeling irritated or angry with those around you, and blaming yourself for lack of progress for your cause.

Animal rights activists can gain a strong sense of purpose from their involvement in the animal rights effort, but this type of work can also deliver a multitude of negative emotions (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). These negative emotions can take a hefty toll on activists and cause them to crash and burn. That is why it is imperative that activists make self-care a priority and ensure that they handle their emotions in a positive manner.

Animal activists can often be involved in the management of emotions, or “emotion work” on a daily basis. Some emotion work for activists includes: suppressing negative emotions, venting those same negative emotions, using vivid images to sustain commitment to the cause, and developing feelings of guilt (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). Recognizing the emotional costs of activism and learning how to deal with such emotions can benefit the individual and the movement as a whole.

When participating in an advocacy event, it is not unusual for activists to receive hostile or unfriendly reactions from those around them. For example, in a society that is ruled by science and technology, there is always a risk that the public will not take animal rights seriously (Groves, 2001). If activists hastily react to negative words or actions from those around them, revealing anger, it is unlikely that the public will ever acknowledge the moral principles of animal rights (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). The alternative to reacting this way is to bottle up the anger and resentment felt towards those issuing the negativity. Instead of suppressing these emotions, activists can try releasing negative emotions to other activists who will understand their situation (Jamison, Wenk, and Parker, 2000). By doing this, activists can avoid releasing negative emotions at inappropriate times.

Even if activists can release negative emotions caused by the public, some still experience deep feelings of guilt or a worried conscience, simply by being a part of the animal rights movement (Jamison, Wenk, and Parker, 2000). Animal rights activists often feel like they do not do enough and feel responsible for the countless animals that need their support (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). While these feelings of guilt may always linger in their minds, activists can still take steps toward realizing and accepting that they alone are not responsible for all animals. They can look to other activists for solace when having guilty feelings.

Though discussing the negative aspects of activism with other activists is a great way to release emotions, it will not always do the trick for troubled activists. Realizing when it is time to momentarily step away from the cause is essential. This does not mean that the activist has to quit a project or not participate in all of their advocacy events; it just means that emotional health is important. In order to take care of and do things for others, you first have to take care of yourself.

There are many things activists can do to combat burnout and engage in self-care, but here are some of the most helpful suggestions:

  • Find allies at work or in your organization. Identify one or two people that you feel comfortable talking to and who will support you.
  • Consider joining a support group. If you are an activist who feels burned out, it is likely that you are not the only one.
  • Eat well and exercise regularly. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but sometimes activists can become very busy and neglect eating properly and making time for exercise. Making this a priority is essential in maintaining good physical and mental health.
  • Make time for things that really matter to you. Make a list of things in your life that you enjoy doing, and try to spend time each week doing those things. Revive your mind and body with your favorite things!

It is evident that participation in animal rights activism requires a significant amount of emotional incentive and involves many emotional costs. Activists should invest their time not only in fighting for and advocating animal rights, but in their emotional health as well.

If you have additional tips on handling feelings of activist burnout, please leave them in the comments below!

References:

Groves, J.M. (2001). Animal rights and the politics of emotion: Folk constructions of emotion in the animal rights movement. Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 212–229.

Jamison, W.V., Wenk, C., & Parker, J.W. (2000). Every sparrow that falls: Understanding animal rights activism as functional religion. Society & Animals, 8(3), 305–330.

Jacobsson, K. & Lindblom, J. (2013). Emotion Work in Animal Rights Activism: A Moral-Sociological Perspective. Acta Sociologica, 56(1).

Meat and Masculinity

By Amanda Riley, VegFund Operations Assistant

Community Outreach EventMentions of factory farming in the media are increasingly negative, and the number of vegetarians and meat-reducers is increasing slowly but surely. However, women are more likely than men both to follow a fully vegetarian diet and to eat at least one vegetarian meal a week (Vegetarian Resource Group, 2012). In this blog, we’ll explore why this is and what we can do to bring more men into the vegan lifestyle.

Many animal activists are familiar with the frustrating notion that “real men eat meat.” There has been plenty of theoretical work on masculinity, feminism, and vegetarianism, but empirical studies were lacking until a recent study by Hank Rothgerber at Bellarmine University in Kentucky (Rothgerber, 2013). Rothgerber surveyed men and women on their beliefs and thoughts about meat eating to see what mental justification strategies they used in a world where the negative effects of animal agriculture are so well known.

Women were much more likely to use indirect strategies. They avoided thinking about where their food came from or chose to think of animals as separate from the meat on their plates. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to justify meat directly with reasons like religious sanction, human superiority, nutrition, and the inability of animals to feel pain. People who used the direct, male strategies ate meat more frequently and ate fewer vegetarian meals than people who used the indirect strategies (Rothgerber, 2013).

Do these direct justification strategies sound familiar? Asserting dominance and refusing to be swayed by compassion are two facets of our cultural ideals of masculinity. In advertisements, eating meat is often directly linked to masculinity. For example, in one Hummer commercial, the gas-guzzling SUV is presented as a way to “Restore Your Manhood” for men who may have lost it by eating tofu and other vegetarian foods (Rogers, 2008). And indeed, when Rothgerber measured masculine attitudes along with the meat justification strategies, those who valued masculinity more highly were more likely to use the direct strategies and thus to eat more meat. This suggest that men’s pro-meat attitudes and higher meat consumption may largely be due to a desire to represent the masculine ideal (Rothgerber, 2013).

Rothgerber offers some strategies that activists can employ to temper the effects of masculinity on meat eating:

  • Educate people about the role that these messages may be playing on their identities and behaviors so that they can make more informed choices.
  • Continue to influence women, who will in turn influence the men in their lives. Not only are women having increasingly more say in household decision making (Belch & Willis, 2006), but they have also been shown to have a direct influence on important behaviors in men such as seeking healthcare (Norcross, Ramirez, and Palinkas, 1996). However, Rothgerber notes that this doesn’t mean that men can’t change themselves or each other, or that women should be responsible for men.
  • Normalize veganism by organizing discussion groups for men or by raising awareness about more “masculine” male vegetarians such as athletes or musicians.
  • Use masculine ideals to promote veganism. For example, we could emphasize that veganism is a bold and rational choice, or that “real men” choose to protect vulnerable groups such as animals rather than harm them. PETA is already notorious for associating traditional masculine attributes like sexual stamina with a vegan diet.

REFERENCES

Belch, M.A. & Willis, L.A. (2006). Family decision at the turn of the century: Has the changing structure of households impacted the family decision-making process? Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2(2), 111-124.

Norcross, W.A., Ramirez, C., & Palinkas, L.A. (1996). The influence of women on the health-care seeking behavior of men. The Journal of Family Practice, 43(5), 475-480.

Rogers, R.A. (2008). Beasts, burgers, and hummers: Meat and the crisis of masculinity in contemporary television advertisements. Environmental Communication, 2(3), 281-301.

Rothgerber, H. (2013). Real men don’t eat (vegetable) quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of meat consumption. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14(4), 363-375.

Stahler, C. (2012). How often do Americans eat vegetarian meals? And how many adults in the U.S. are vegetarian? Retrieved on June 13, 2014, from http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/05/18/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian/

Part 3: Lessons from 10 Successful Facebook Campaigns

This final blog in our social media series explores several extremely popular Facebook pages. Each of these pages have attracted anywhere between one hundred thousand to eighty million fans. We do not endorse any of the following companies or their products, but we can learn from them. Our hope is that the techniques that they use will spark creative ideas for your own online vegan advocacy campaigns.

American Red Cross

Likes: 592,178
Talking about this: 9,943
Cool feature: Two-way conversations to build relationships

The American Red Cross is a great example of a non-profit that successfully uses social media. They use Facebook and Twitter to have two-way conversations with community members, volunteers, and the media; in doing so, they build strong relationships, get feedback on what they do well and how they can improve, and help spread awareness about their programs (Briones, Kuch, Liu, & Jin, 2011). The Red Cross’ southern region chapter uses social media to share volunteer opportunities and events with their fans, while other chapters use it to recruit new volunteers and relay information during crisis situations (Briones, et al., 2011). They also use social media to build relationships with local TV stations and newspapers, which has helped them respond to disasters more quickly. In turn, the media follows the Red Cross and contacts them to generate news stories (Briones, et al., 2011). You can follow the Red Cross’ example and use Facebook and other forms of social media to build relationships and establish trust. You can also follow other animal rights groups to find out the latest developments and spread the word on your own page.

Burt’s Bees

Likes: 2,273,163
Talking about this: 95,361
Cool feature: Inside look at their company and products

Burt’s Bees provides a look at the inner workings of their company and products through the use of videos and photos, which makes fans feel welcome and establishes trust (Porterfield, 2010). If you feel comfortable enough, you can do the same for your page by sharing your own story and experiences with vegan living and animal rights. In addition to posting “inside look” status updates on your page, you can also create a special tab with videos and photos of you and the people who volunteer for your page.

Coca-Cola

Likes: 80,101, 225
Talking about this: 665,948
Cool feature: Fun competitions

Coca-Cola gets their fans involved with their page by running fun competitions, such as the Share a Coke® Valentine’s Day Competition. They asked fans to submit photos of themselves with their loved one while sharing a Coke. The fans who submitted the most creative photos won personalized sets of Coke bottles. You can try asking your fans to post photos of themselves at vegan restaurants and farm sanctuaries, which will help spread the word about these places, and get your fans more involved with your page. If you decide to run competitions on your page, remember to make it easy to join (i.e., have only a few steps to join), easy to share so more people will find out about it, and most important of all, make it fun (Porterfield, 2010)!

Jones Soda

Likes: 1,013,021
Talking about this: 1,515
Cool features: Tabs for different types of social media; weekly polls

Jones Soda knows that fans have different preferences for the way that they communicate and so they provide multiple options on their page (Porterfield, 2010). They have tabs for Instagram and YouTube, as well as tabs for their videos and events, and a tab called Caps for Gear! where fans can trade in Jones Soda caps for t-shirts, hats, watches, and more. They also run weekly polls, which is a great way to interact with fans, learn about the audience, and find out what they want to see on the page (Porterfield, 2010). If you use more than one type of social media, make sure that your fans are aware of it and know how to find you on the other sites. It might be fun to borrow the “Caps for Gear” idea and create something like “Go Veg for Gear!” in which fans can turn in vegan food product labels in exchange for vegan buttons, t-shirts, books, and other such rewards. This will give fans an added incentive to try out vegan foods!

Livescribe

Likes: 132,023
Talking about this: 371
Cool feature: Customer support tab

Livescribe’s page has a customer support tab, in which fans can ask questions, share ideas, report problems, and give praise. Other people can see these posts and get answers to their questions, as well as reviews of Livescribe products. You might consider adding a Frequently Asked Questions tab to your page with information about veganism and links to restaurant guides, veg starter kits, and other helpful resources.

Oreo

Likes: 35,758,226
Talking about this: 92,242
Cool Feature: Oreo Creme Canvas tab

Oreo has a fun tab called Oreo Creme Canvas, where you can create a unique image on the creme of an Oreo and share with your friends. The team behind Oreo’s Facebook page came up with a clever way to use this tab to help build up their fan base; you have to “Like” their page before you can create a canvas. Then you can choose to upload a photo, or fill in the canvas with text and icons. You can create a farm-animal related tab where fans put their faces where the animals’ faces should be, or type messages into word bubbles. If you choose to do this, you may want to include a message that states that inappropriate photos and messages that fans create will not be posted on your Facebook page.

Red Bull

Likes: 43,052,387
Talking about this: 348,533
Cool features: Games; welcome tab

The crew behind Red Bull’s page understands their target audience and they know what gets the best response on their page (Porterfield, 2010). One of their unique features is a tab with several sports-themed games for their fans. They also created a welcome tab with an eye-catching image and a clear call to action to “Like” their page. Creative design can have a BIG impact on people who visit your page; it may be worth it to spend a little bit of money on your page design (Porterfield, 2010). You can also organize your page by making tabs for different areas, such as videos, contests, polls, and events.

Skittles

Likes: 25,887,257
Talking about this: 38,009
Cool feature: Well-developed brand voice

Skittles’ Facebook page is entertaining, colorful, and funny. They have done a great job of developing a brand voice for their page. They tell fans that they might become The Rainbow’s BFF if they post Skittles-themed photos on their page. Then they add funny statements to go with the photos. Try to develop a brand voice for your page. Know your audience so that you can create a voice that they will connect with, and make sure to keep your tone and language consistent (Schwab, 2011).

Starbucks

Likes: 36,329,214
Talking about this: 480,828
Cool feature: International tab; locations tab; open jobs tab

Starbucks created a special International tab for people to join their country’s Starbuck’s community Facebook page. They also have tabs for their locations and for open jobs. You can borrow their idea and add a tab with links to the Facebook pages of vegan organizations, vegan meetup groups, and farm sanctuaries worldwide. You might also consider adding a tab for volunteer and internship opportunities.

Uno Chicago Grill

Likes: 132,202
Talking about this: 279
Cool features: Great visual appeal through photos; Happy Mutt’s Day album for fans

Uno Chicago Grill’s page uses appealing photos of food to entice their fans (Porterfield, 2010). They know how much people love their dogs so they created an album titled “Happy Mutt’s Day” where fans can post photos of their dogs, which is a great way to connect fans to their page. When you create posts, try to use the most appealing images. Look for bright colors, appetizing photos of vegan food, and the cutest animals. And find ways to make your fans part of your page!

We hope this blog series helps you with your activism, gives you some new ideas, and inspires you to use social media as a way to help animals. We would love to hear about your experiences with social media campaigns and we wish you the best of luck!

References

Briones, R. L., Kuch, B., Liu, B. F., & Jin, Y. (2011). Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 37-43.

Porterfield, A. (2010, August 31). Top 10 Facebook pages and why they’re successful. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-facebook-pages/

Schwab, S. (2011, March 31). Finding your brand voice. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/finding-your-brand-voice/

 

Part 2: Understanding Your Target Audience

When using social media as an activist tool, it’s important to tailor your message to your target audience. In order to do that, you first need to determine who your target group is. If you already manage a Facebook page, you can easily find details about the people who “Like” your page by going to the “See Insights” tab and then clicking on the “People” tab. From there you will see a breakdown of your fans by gender, age, country, city, language, etc.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you then need to do some research to find out what appeals to them. Google Scholar is one great resource. In addition, Google has several search operators that help to narrow down search results, as well as an advanced search page. You might try using search terms such as:

  • “marketing to [insert your target audience name]” (Placing quotation marks around search terms is one type of search operator; this will bring up results that have the exact word or phrase that you typed)

  • tips OR strategies for marketing to [insert your target audience name] (If you place OR in all caps between search terms, you will pull up pages that contain either term)

  • marketing social causes AND [insert your target audience name] (By placing AND in all caps between search terms, you will find pages with both terms)

  • how to market to teens -cigarette (Place a dash [-] before a word to exclude results that include that word; this is especially helpful if your search is bringing up a lot of irrelevant pages on a particular topic)

After you’ve identified your target audience and have an understanding of what appeals to them, you can begin to customize the messaging. For example, if you’re reaching out to older adults, you may want include information about the health benefits of plant-based foods, which often leads to a better quality of life, as well as a longer lifespan and more time to spend with their children and grandchildren. For health conscious audiences, you might focus on the health-promoting benefits of vegan food and the many common, yet avoidable diseases and conditions that arise from eating animal products. For eco-conscious consumers, you could give information about the negative effects that animal agriculture has on the environment and the Earth’s resources. For religious communities, focus on how veganism is in line with their spiritual values. Given the wide array of ethical, health, and environmental benefits of veganism, the message can easily be tailored to various demographics.

Case Study: Generation Z

When it comes to veganism, teens and college students tend to be one of the most receptive demographics and most likely to switch to a vegan lifestyle (Ball & Friedrich, 2009). So, focusing on this group may be the best use of limited resources. Additionally, those living at home with their parents influence upwards of 70% of the family food purchases, and 80-90% of the food that their parents buy for them (Williams & Page, 2011).

Who exactly is Generation Z? According to Williams and Page (2011), Generation Z is anyone who was born in or after 1995. They are smart and should not be underestimated, and according to Cross-Bystrom (2010), they “take fewer risks, but take the right risks.” They are technologically competent, do not know what life was like before the internet existed, and are not overwhelmed by messages and information assaulting them from every angle. More than 80% of teens use social networks and 96% use the web at least once a month (Savitt, 2011). They prefer social media over blogs, have an above average number of friends on social networks, and they love to share on these networks, all of which are fantastic reasons to use social media campaigns for this demographic (Ehret, 2011). While they may be good at multi-tasking, technology decreases their attention span (Richtel, 2010), so we need to create unique content that quickly catches their attention and gets the message across (Cross-Bystrom, 2010). A market research article that is helpful for understanding Generation Z can be found here.

One admirable thing about this generation is that they tend to be aware of, and concerned about, environmental and social issues, and they are likely to mobilize around causes that are important to them (Cross-Bystrom, 2010). If we show them how animal rights is connected to many other issues, they’ll be more motivated to take action.

In conclusion, to be effective we need to identify our target audience, find out what appeals to them, and tailor our message accordingly. While it would be ideal to reach and influence every demographic, it isn’t always possible. So it may be best to focus on people who are most likely to make changes, such as Generation Z.

Keep a lookout for our final blog in this series. We’ll share lessons learned from successful Facebook pages and provide lots of helpful examples.

References

Ball, M., & Friedrich, B. (2009). The animal activist’s handbook: Maximizing our positive impact in today’s world. Brooklyn, NY: Lantern Books.

Cross-Bystom, A. (2010, August 20). What you need to know about Generation Z. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/27425.asp#multiview

Ehret, J. (2011, July 6). Marketing to Gen Z – Teens. Retrieved from http://themarketingspot.com/2011/07/marketing-to-gen-zteens.html

Richtel, M. (2010, November 21). Growing up digital, wired for distraction. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?ref=your_brain_on_computers

Savitt, K. (2011, April 8). Three ways companies can reach Generation Z. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/04/08/marketing-generation-z/

Williams, K. C., & Page, R. A. (2011). Marketing to the Generations. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 3(1), 37-53.

 

Part 1: Creating Engaging Social Media Posts

As animal advocates, our goal is to educate as many people as possible about the realities of animal agriculture and encourage them to make choices that are kind to animals and the planet. As such, social media is one of our most powerful tools because it enables us to reach large numbers of people very quickly. By creating Facebook and other social media posts that are engaging (i.e., generate a lot of comments, likes, and shares), our reach will expand even further. And, it doesn’t take much extra effort.

In addition to reaching people with our message, we also need to build relationships with those who follow us on social media networks. By doing so, we establish trust, which can go a long way in influencing positive lifestyle changes.

What Types of Facebook Posts are Most Engaging?

According to Smith (2013), posts that include photos and status updates have the greatest reach. Educational posts and posts with videos tend to get a lot of likes and shares, and posts that ask questions often get many comments (Greenstein, n.d.). However, engagement will vary from page to page, so you may want to experiment and see how people respond to different types of posts. If you manage a Facebook page, you can find out what works best by going to the “See Insights” tab and then clicking on the “Posts” tab. Once there, click on the “Post Types” tab. You will then find the average reach and engagement by type of post.

In our experience, posts that reveal the shocking truth about the way animals are treated are extremely engaging and reach quite far. If you do post any disquieting information, photos, or videos, be sure to suggest actions that help solve the problem; research has demonstrated that this is one of the best ways to help people change (Barach, 1984). There are many actions you can encourage people to take, but just make sure that they are practical. If the action seems too difficult, it may not have any effect on the audience. You also always want to make sure that you’re complying with the social media platform’s guidelines, as certain types of content are sometimes prohibited.

How to Get More Comments, Likes, and Shares

  • It may seem too good to be true, but if you politely ask for comments, likes, and shares, users will often comply (Greenstein, 2012; Smith, 2013). However, don’t overdo it or you may drive people away (A. Malhotra, C. K. Malhotra, See, & Business, 2013). Asking once or twice a week should be fine, but experiment to see what works best on your page. It’s recommended that you ask for only one thing (i.e., comment, like, or share) per post (Smith, 2013). For example, you can say something like: “If you like this recipe, ‘Share’ with your friends!” or “Tell us what you think in the comments.”

  • Keep users interested by posting regularly (Williams & Page, 2011). Try posting once or twice a week at first to see how your fans react. Drell (2012) stated that some brands have been successful with one post per day. However, many have found that making two or more posts per day can reduce engagement. If you only post a few times a week you can still keep your fans engaged by “liking”  and responding to their comments (Drell, 2012). Most importantly, be sure to emphasize quality over quantity when posting.

  • In your posts, try to convey messages in as few words as possible; research has shown that shorter posts generally get more likes (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Aim for 100 characters or less to get the most engagement, and whenever possible include compelling photos, which will make your posts even more effective (Pierce, 2012).

  • People love to associate themselves with winners, so share milestones, achievements, and success stories (Malhotra., et al., 2013). You can post about the growth of your page or awards you have received for your activism. You can also share heartwarming stories about rescued farm animals.

  • Posts with questions placed at the end receive 15% more engagement compared to questions asked in the beginning (Pierce, 2012). Ask your fans what they would like to see on your page or what their favorite meat alternatives are.

  • Make sure to keep up with current events, holidays, and other important dates; these types of posts are seen as more personable (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Try posting vegan versions of traditional recipes around holidays. You can also share information about breaking undercover investigations.

  • Humanize your messages by showing emotion; humorous posts are particularly effective (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Post funny photos and videos of farm animals.

  • Try to see through the eyes of your audience and create posts that will appeal to them. People who use Facebook typically like posts that educate them, keep them informed and entertained, and help them interact and connect with others (Lachance, 2013).

  • To gain their trust and loyalty, always make sure to respond to any messages users send within a 24 hour period (Williams & Page, 2011).

  • Encourage discussion, but don’t try to control everything that is said. There will probably be negative comments, but your page will be seen as genuine (Savitt, 2011). Of course, your page should be a place where people feel safe and comfortable. It is alright for users to have opposing points of view, but you may want to consider banning or blocking anyone who becomes hostile or threatening. You can even post your ground rules on the About section of the page.

  • Make your page fun! You can try hosting events, running contests, and featuring your fans (Smith, 2013). Post photos of your fans and a short story about their path towards veganism. Of course, you’ll always want to be sure that you know, and are complying with, the rules of the social media platform.

Don’t miss the next blog in this series! We’ll cover how to identify your target audience, find out what appeals to them, and tailor the messaging accordingly.

References

Barach, J. A. (1984). Applying marketing principles to social causes. Business Horizons, 27(4), 65-69.

Drell, L. (2012, June 7). 10 Facebook marketing mistakes to avoid. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/06/07/facebook-marketing-mistakes/

Greenstein, H. (n.d.). A marketer’s guide to the new Facebook. Retrieved from http://images.prsoftware.vocus.com/Web/Vocus/%7Bca91784d-8997-494c-8237-8e77fad39d39%7D_Vocus_-_New_Facebook_Guide.pdf

Lachance, G. (2013, May 11). Top 10 must read tips to run a successful Facebook business page. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/genevieve-lachance/1454711/successful-facebook-business-page-top-10-must-read-tips

Malhotra, A., Malhotra, C. K., See, A., & Business, S. (2013). How to create brand engagement on Facebook. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(2), 18-20.

Pierce, S. (2012, October 10). 5 ways to improve your Facebook engagement. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/improve-facebook-engagement/

Savitt, K. (2011, April 8). Three ways companies can reach Generation Z. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/04/08/marketing-generation-z/

Smith, M. (2013, June 2). 10 proven ways to improve your Facebook reach. Retrieved from http://www.marismith.com/proven-ways-improve-your-facebook-reach/

Williams, K. C., & Page, R. A. (2011). Marketing to the Generations. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 3(1), 37-53.

 

Everybody’s Doing It: How the Psychology of Social Norms Affects Advocacy

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

As animal advocates, we have the challenging task of encouraging people to make lifestyle changes that most of society has yet to adopt. So, it’s critical for us to understand how societal pressures play into people’s decision-making processes. Otherwise, our message might fall on deaf ears, or worse, it may reinforce the negative behavior we are trying to get people to stop (namely, eating animals). In this AR Trends article, we’ll explore how the psychology of social norms affects advocacy and provide some concrete tips for making sure we don’t accidentally send the wrong message!

Everyone is subject to the pressures of society, or social norms. These social norms influence a person’s actions in two fundamental ways: by what s/he sees others actually doing, known as descriptive norms, and by what a person believes s/he ought to do, known as injunctive norms (Cialdini, 2003)

An example of the way these two psychological factors can conflict is illustrated by a 1971 TV commercial dubbed “the Iron Eyes Cody spot,” which was the trademark of a campaign to reduce littering. Although the ad was effective in eliciting sentiment, the PSA might have had the opposite of its intended effect.

To paint the picture (or even better, check it out on YouTube), in the ad a Native American man is seen paddling through the water only to eddy out onto a shore filled with trash. To top it off, he sees a motorist on the highway throw trash out his window. The viewer watches as the camera gets a close-up of the Native American’s face with a single tear running down his cheek.

The problem here is that the ad actually has two messages. One is obvious: Don’t litter; it makes people who care about the environment cry. The second is more subtle but equally persuasive: People litter, and they litter a lot (Cialdini. 2003).

The studies suggest that these two factors–what people see others doing, and what they believe they should do–need to be in alignment for effective advocacy. If a person detects that most people are doing something, they reasonably believe that it is acceptable and maybe even the right thing to do, even if they are being told to do the opposite.

A recent study by a group of researchers in Irvine, CA (Misra, Stokols, & Marino, 2011) illustrates the power of social norms. The researchers were interested in finding out if they could increase survey participation rates using descriptive social norms (i.e., “everyone is doing it”). In one group, potential survey takers were told that most people in the past who were asked to take the survey did so. In the control group, that part was left out. The findings showed that using the “everyone is doing it” (descriptive social norm) appeal significantly increased the number of responses to the surveys (Misra et al., 2011).

Another study looked at the concept of descriptive and injunctive norms in the context of selling eco-friendly apparel. However, the researchers took it a step further and also examined how social cues, which they dubbed “extrinsic” forms of marketing, and personal values, or what they called “intrinsic” marketing, affected consumers.

They found that those who didn’t have a commitment to the environment were more likely to be influenced by an argument that used social cues. In other words, if these consumers saw that purchasing a product would go toward a large campaign that helped the environment, they were more likely to buy. People who already believed in the importance of eco-friendly goods were more persuaded by claims that related to the product itself.

In short, as animal advocates, we need to be aware of the messages we are sending, both directly and indirectly. According to the studies, it’s best to steer clear of anything that reinforces the notion that most people eat meat and animal products. For example, it might be tempting to say something like, “Every year, billions of animals are slaughtered for food,” in order to convey the vast amount of unnecessary suffering that takes place. But, in doing so, we may inadvertently be promoting eating animals as a social norm.

So, what should we do? In advocating to people who are less inclined to veganism, the best route may be to show them all the people and groups who eat an animal-free diet in order to send the message that it is a normal thing to do. For people who are more inclined to veganism, like vegetarians and others in the likely demographics, citing specific benefits of the change could be more effective.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have ideas on how the psychology of social norms can be applied to our activism? We’d love to hear from you! Post your opinions and comments below.

References:

Cialdini, Robert. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(4), 105-109.

Kim, H., Lee, E.J., & Hur, W.M. (2012). The Normative Social Influence on Eco-Friendly Consumer Behavior: The Moderating Effect of Environmental Marketing Claims. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 30(1), 4-18.

Misra, Shalina, Stokols, Daniel & Marino, Anne Heberger. (2011). Using Norm-Based Appeals to Increase Response Rates in Evaluation Research: A Field Experiment. American Journal of Evaluation, 33(1), 88-98.