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Testing Emphasis Message Frames and Metaphors on Social Media to Engage Boaters to Learn about Preventing the Spread of Zebra Mussels

Abstract

Message frames are often used to communicate about invasive species due to the additional meaning they provide. They appear in calls to action like “join the battle against invasive species,” “unwelcome exotics,” or “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers.” However, little is known about how stakeholders respond to these message frames. This research tested five common message emphasis frames used in invasive species communication. These message frames were placed in social media advertisements about zebra mussels to determine the impact each message frame had on user online behavior. For cost-per-click (CPC), ANOVA showed effects for framing and gender. Model coefficients revealed that Hitchhiker and Protective had significantly higher CPC than Science, and that women had a higher CPC. For comments, ANOVA showed effects for framing and gender. Model coefficients revealed that no frame had a significantly different effect on comments than Science, and that women commented on posts less. For shares, ANOVA showed effects for framing. Model coefficients revealed that Hitchhiker was shared more than Science. It is important to note that neither Militaristic nor Nativist outperformed Science on any measured outcome. Coupled with ethical considerations, our results suggest the use of Nativist and Militaristic frames are not necessary to influence online behavior. Message frames without ethical issues can be used to achieve the outcomes we tested without compromising message effectiveness. Within this article, we provide background on commonly used invasive species message frames, explain our methods for testing how they impact user behavior, and suggest limitations and applications of this work.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Brooke Alexander for her creative artistic skills in creating the Facebook advertisements. We would also like to thank Katie Laushman who originally inspired the idea for this message test while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Additional thanks go to Elizabeth White, the Wisconsin Sea Grant editor, who provided useful feedback on this manuscript; Doug Hemken of the University of Wisconsin Social Science Computer Cooperative for advice on our statistical analysis; as well as the anonymous reviewers whose comments improved our manuscript. This work was funded by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the University of Wisconsin Division of Extension.

Author Contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and data collection was completed by Dr. Bret Shaw and Tim Campbell. Analysees were performed by Dr. Barry Radler. The draft of the manuscript was written by Dr. Bret Shaw and Tim Campbell. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This work was supported by the University of Wisconsin Division of Extension and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

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Correspondence to Tim Campbell.

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A human subjects protection protocol was submitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Education and Social/Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board (IRB), which determined that the research did not constitute human subjects research in accordance with federal regulations.

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Shaw, B., Campbell, T. & Radler, B.T. Testing Emphasis Message Frames and Metaphors on Social Media to Engage Boaters to Learn about Preventing the Spread of Zebra Mussels. Environmental Management 68, 824–834 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-021-01506-6

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Keywords

  • Message framing
  • Message frames
  • Zebra mussels
  • Metaphors
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Facebook