Research Highlights

Can Social Media Messaging Help Save Our Environment?

bryan bollinger headshot

Overview: In a paper titled, “Making Prosocial Social: The Effectiveness of Social Proof for Energy Conservation Using Social Media,” NYU Stern Professor Bryan Bollinger, along with co-authors Kenneth Gillingham (Yale University) and Kelley Gullo Wight (University of Indiana), examines how social media can be best utilized to encourage energy-saving behavior.

Why study this now: Tackling the climate crisis necessitates significant behavioral change from humans, and social media may be an influential tool to catalyze such action.

What the authors argue: The study looks at what makes social media messages effective in encouraging people to save energy. Two important factors are if the person receiving the message is connected to the sender, and if the message includes proof that others are also taking positive actions (social proof).

What does this change: The findings offer a new way to encourage energy conservation: messages sent by groups people are connected to (like local employers, faith-based groups, or governments) are much more effective in getting people to save energy, especially when there's evidence that others are doing the same.

Key insight: The researchers conclude that “by combining social proof appeals with the ease of use, scalability, and cost effectiveness of social media, new media in marketing can help play a role in affecting positive change along many social dimensions, including behavior related to climate change.”

This research is forthcoming in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.