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Crowdfunding success relies on friendly networks, ASU research finds

Social media drives rely on how friendly network "friends" are, ASU paper finds.
August 3, 2018

Campaigns like 'Ice Bucket Challenge' closely tied to social media connections

Four years ago this summer, a phenomenon hit social media when millions of people participated in the "ALS Ice Bucket ChallengeThe challenge involved people taking videos of themselves dumping a bucket of ice and water over their heads and posting it on social media to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and drive donations to the ALS Association.," raising more than $115 million for charity.

An Arizona State University professor has published a research paper looking at these kinds of social-media crowdsourcing phenomena and why they’re so successful.

Yili Hong, an associate professor in the Department of Information Systems at the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, and his co-authorsHis co-authors are Yuheng Hu, an assistant professor in the Department of Information and Decision Sciences at the College of Business Administration of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who received his PhD at ASU, and Gordon Burtch, an associate professor in the Information and Decision Sciences Department at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. The paper, “Embeddedness, Pro-Sociality, and Social Influence: Evidence from Online Crowdfunding,” will be published in the journal MIS Quarterly. researched huge data sets from Twitter and Facebook to examine how the social media networks affected the success of crowdsourcing campaigns on Kickstarter.

It has to do with “embeddedness,” or how connected people on the network are to each other.

“So what is a friends’ network? Is this a network that’s built among friends, people who have many connections with each other?” said Hong, who also is co-director of the Digital Society Initiative in the W. P. Carey School of Business. “You can think about how many friends there are in common as the embeddedness measure.

“There’s also a network in which I’m connected to you and you’re connected to someone else, who is connected to someone else. It’s not a close network and embeddedness is not high.”

Yili Hong is an associate professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Essentially, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge succeeded because it was a perfect storm of a campaign with a pro-social message combined with networks that were highly embedded.

“If I’m not doing it, it might make me look bad, but if I do it there is some reputational gain,” he said.

“This effect wouldn’t work in the weak network because I wouldn’t care with these kinds of loose acquaintances.”

To test the hypothesis, the researchers compared pro-social Kickstarter campaigns with ones that sought to raise money to launch new products, like technology gadgets or video games, as well as how embedded the networks were. They found that pro-social campaigns raised roughly twice as much money as private-product campaigns in embedded networks — which worked out to about $6,000 more money raised over a 30-day campaign.

“While social media campaigns seem ubiquitous and like they’re around forever, there is almost no research of this kind,” Hong said. Their research looked at data from 2014 to 2016 and included more than 1,000 Kickstarter campaigns. The team also used “text mining” to determine whether a campaign was pro-social by analyzing the words in the description.

The research results have implications for marketers to most strategically focus their efforts, Hong said.

“Where do we put advertising budgets? Facebook is more dense, more friends based, and Twitter is more information based,” he said.

Hong said that researching the nuances of social media is increasingly important.

“It’s something very different from what it was before,” he said. “It is influencing a lot of things — peoples’ purchasing behaviors, donation behaviors and even political views.

“And it’s exciting because those data are free as long as you have a way to write a program to capture them.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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New ASU Law clinic helps protect, defend First Amendment rights

August 3, 2018

ASU professor and renowned media attorney Gregg Leslie will run clinic’s day-to-day operations

Seems like journalists can’t count on many allies these days.

But they have a new one in Gregg Leslie, an Arizona State University professor and media law expert who will open a legal clinic this week on the Downtown Phoenix campus to advance the legal rights of reporters.  

Leslie, a former journalist, in May was named the inaugural executive director of the First Amendment Legal Clinic at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The center’s twin goals will focus on freedom of the press issues as well as teaching a new generation of lawyers how to help individuals stand up for their rights and address the roadblocks keeping journalists from doing meaningful work.

The clinic was funded by an almost $1 million gift from the Stanton Foundation, a private organization established by longtime CBS president Frank Stanton.

ASU Now recently spoke to Leslie, who will run the clinic as executive director with ASU Law Professor James WeinsteinJames Weinstein is a noted free-speech author and litigator, and the Dan Cracchiolo chair in Constitutional Law at ASU. serving as faculty adviser.

Man in red tie smiling
Gregg Leslie

Question: Congratulations on opening ASU’s First Amendment Legal Clinic. What made you want to take on this challenge?

Answer: I’ve always been involved in defending and advancing the legal rights of journalists and ensuring that the government is open and accountable to its citizens. So when the opportunity came up at the law school here, I jumped at the chance to help teach the next generation of media lawyers and openness advocates. As the news industry continues to grapple with financial challenges and therefore scales back its push for access somewhat, it’s more important than ever that we train lawyers to take up the cause on behalf of bloggers, freelancers and other advocates and activists.

Q: What is your vision for this clinic and how will it be run?

A: The first objective is to train young lawyers, so we’ll pursue anything that helps the students learn how to interact with and represent journalists and others speakers. The interest in actually making positive changes in the law is also important, but even the ordinary access cases have a real educational value. I want to make sure the students see every aspect of a media practice, from the early consultations, letter-writing and negotiating to the issues that come up in more formal litigation.

Q: You were once a professional journalist before you became an attorney. What were some First Amendment issues you ran into as a reporter, and have those issues changed over time?

A: In some ways, the issues that the media encounters have been the same for decades. We’re still fighting libel claims, which are often brought when a news subject is angry or embarrassed, rather than truly harmed by a false statement of fact. But in the last two decades, we’ve seen a large number of states pass laws that make it easier to dismiss frivolous lawsuits on matters of public importance (called “anti-SLAPP laws”), and that has helped. And, of course, the evolution of online news and social media has added a host of other issues, from copyright claims to take-down demands to questions of liability for readers’ comments.

Personally, the biggest issue I ran into as a reporter concerned a claim for invasion of privacy, when we were sued for $120 million for reporting on a wealthy lawyer and real estate developer. Being served with a complaint with a number that big really sticks with you. Thankfully, our attorney was able to get the case dismissed.

Q: What are the biggest legal challenges facing journalists today?

A: Getting information in the first place is often the biggest challenge. Government officials don’t want to release records, judges and litigants often want to hide what’s going on in court, and police, politicians and even protesters want to interfere with reporters trying to cover important events. And with dwindling news media resources, many officials seem to feel emboldened in their efforts to thwart disclosure and keep the public in the dark.

Q: In terms of the law, is defending First Amendment rights a lost art form?

A: I think there will always be lawyers who defend these rights, and students who want to learn how. But lawyers also have to make a living, and that keeps getting harder to do in this field. So we want to see more general-practice lawyers be prepared to take these issues on as pro bono matters. Those pro bono lawyers have in fact been an important part of the First Amendment landscape for a long time, as it is often the most marginalized people with few resources whose rights are interfered with. So I’m hopeful that the skills necessary to keep fighting this fight will not die out anytime soon.

Q: Is there reason to be positive about the future in this area?

A: Yes. I think that some of the anti-media rhetoric that we’ve seen in the last few years has really encouraged reporters out there to fight even harder for access and accountability. And people generally are learning how important a free press is, which will hopefully help in our efforts to defend and advance those rights. It’s an exciting time to be a journalist or a media lawyer — not because it’s easy, but because it’s challenging and more important than ever.