Behavior Change, Facebook and the Obama Campaign

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook (there were 3 of them),  Director of Online Organizing for the Obama Campaign, and founder of brand new non-profit start-up, spoke at Tuesday night’s Full Circle Fund meeting.  Since I was lucky enough to attend, and Hughes had some greatly relevant nuggets of wisdom, I thought I’d share with you the key takeaways.  Human behavior change is a central interest of mine (indeed I majored in psychology).  and Hughes’ points all have major implications about what works when attempting to alter human behavior.  He outlined 4 main learnings from the Obama campaign and Facebook:

  1. People want to learn.  We want to know what other people are up to, we want to be in touch.  We also want to know what’s going on in the greater world around us.  We want to know how we can help and engage.
  2. People want to share. Using Facebook is one way that we define ourselves in a social context.  The more comfortable we are online, the more we are willing to share and discuss our interests, values and more.  The better the information we share, the greater our social capital becomes.  Facebook created highly controlable privacy settings to ensure maximum comfort sharing.
  3. People take the path of least resistance.  In other words we’re lazy.  The less friction presented, for example through a user interface, the more likely we are to act.  On the Obama campaign, Hughes and team tested and tested to see what interface design would most likely convert site visitors to donors.
  4. People will engage meaningfully if you take them seriously.  Expect a lot and you’ll get a lot.  The Obama campaign aimed to build long term relationships with all supporters.  An interesting finding – of all the videos the Obama team shared with their audience, the most watched was NOT any of the fun 2 minute videos, but rather the 40 minute long speech Obama did on race.  If you give us substance and expect us to handle it, we can and will.

Hughes is taking these learnings and applying them to Jumo, his new start-up, which is about connecting people with causes, giving us the opportunity to engage in “real relationships of responsibility” as he describes it.  Jumo means “Together in Concert” and helps people discover organizations and build real relationships with them.  Hughes’ goal is to create a “chorus of individuals across world with a sense of personal responsibility and a compulsion to act.”

How does this compare with what you’ve learned and how you’ve gone about influencing behavior?

Also, can I just say – at 26, Hughes is just 4 months older than me! – amazing what one person can do in a short time.

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on, and on JustMeans.

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