Addressing Public Health Needs by Promoting Prosocial Behaviors Through Social Media

49 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2021

See all articles by Stephen Harrell

Stephen Harrell

Facebook Inc

Andrew Simons

Fordham University - Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Peter Clasen

Google Inc.

Date Written: February 25, 2021

Abstract

Online social networks have the potential to encourage behaviors that improve the health and well-being of society at an unprecedented scale. We examine the impact of Facebook’s blood donation tool on voluntary blood donation in three large countries. Quasi-experimental evidence in the United States indicates that the tool caused an increase in blood donation among all donors (+4.0% [95% CI: .04% to 8.0%]), and particularly among new blood donors (+18.9% [95% CI: 4.7% to 33.1%]) during the tool’s three-month staggered rollout. Longitudinal evidence from Brazil and India indicates that the share of donors who both received a message from the tool and stated they were influenced by Facebook to donate blood increased from 0% to 14.1% [95% CI: 12.1% to 16.2%] in the first year. These findings demonstrate that social networks can support public health by encouraging offline prosocial behavior at scale.

Keywords: prosocial behavior, public health, social media, altruism, public good provision, blood supply, blood donation

JEL Classification: D64, H41, I12

Suggested Citation

Harrell, Stephen and Simons, Andrew and Clasen, Peter, Addressing Public Health Needs by Promoting Prosocial Behaviors Through Social Media (February 25, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3793261 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3793261

Stephen Harrell (Contact Author)

Facebook Inc ( email )

Menlo Park, CA 94025
United States

Andrew Simons

Fordham University - Graduate School of Arts & Sciences ( email )

441 E. Fordham Rd.
Bronx, NY 10458
United States

Peter Clasen

Google Inc. ( email )

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Second Floor
Mountain View, CA 94043
United States

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