This is Oxfam’s new campaign #withoxfam. All you have to do is retweet this and they will automatically add your profile picture to their giant mosaic. This makes you feel like a good person, you can show all your friends that you don’t like poverty, and your picture can be on the Oxfam website, with just one click. Simple right? However, Oxfam is actually employing the foot-in-the-door technique, and hence relying on the principles of commitment and consistency. Every human has the need to feel like a consistent person and to appear consistent to other people (Cialdini, 2009). With the Oxfam campaign, first you do something seemingly trivial such as post a tweet. Then if you are later asked to give a donation to Oxfam, driven by the need to be consistent with your previous self who posted the tweet, you agree to a donation. Oxfam are getting their ‘foot-in-the-door’ by securing an initial public commitment of sending the tweet, and can then use the human need to be consistent to gain donations.
This phenomenon has been demonstrated in a study by Guéguen and Jacob (2001) which specifically assessed the foot-in-the-door technique using online communication. Subjects were sent an email asking them to follow a link to a website promoting a humanitarian cause. This website displayed a further link to make a donation to one of three well-known humanitarian charities. In the control group participants were taken to that site immediately. However, the foot-in-the-door group was first taken to a page asking them to sign a petition and once they had done this they were directed to the donation website. 1,008 people clicked on the email link and hence this was the sample included in analysis. Guéguen and Jacob (2001) recorded how many people in each group clicked on the link to make a donation. As shown in the graph, significantly more people in the foot-in-the-door group (13.64%) decided to make a donation than the control group (3.39%).
Figure 1. Percentage of people who visited the donation page, separated by
condition. Adapted from Guéguen and Jacob (2001)
This study shows that a small commitment such as signing a petition increases the likelihood of making a subsequent donation. It appears that Oxfam are using this same technique, and by getting people to publicly tweet that they support Oxfam, they are likely to increase their donations. However, this would be more effective if, immediately after the tweet is posted, a message with a donation link is presented to each person.
Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Guéguen, N., & Jacob, C. (2001). Fund-raising on the web: The effect of an electronic foot-in-the-door on donation. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 4(6), 705-709.