Social Network Tools to Reach People In Need

Social Network Tools to Reach People In Need

Participants interacting with the speaker in a workshop on data analytics organised for NGOs

Dr Chau delivered a seminar on online engagement and business analytics for NGOs
Dr Michael Chau

When researchers have good results, we should be sharing them and promoting them to society so people can benefit.

A young person writes a blog or Facebook post about feeling suicidal. An organisation wants to find such youths and help them. How can they connect?

Dr Michael Chau, Associate Professor in the School of Business, has an answer: use data analytics. He has been sharing his expertise in this area to help non-governmental organisations identify troubled youths and also to build up the organisations' capacity. Ten free workshops were organised between 2012 and 2016 and more than 50 NGOs participated.

"My research has involved analysing people’s behaviour on social media and how consumers use platforms like blogs or Facebook to form communities for products and companies. I've also analysed different kinds of interventions between users and gained experience on what people do and what can attract more attention," he said. "I thought these findings could be used to help provide knowledge and training to NGOs."

For instance, an NGO could use data analytics to search for words appearing in blogs, Facebook or other social media that would identify someone in emotional distress, such as "suicide", "depression", "self-laceration" and "family problems". In the workshops, Dr Chau and his team have shown how this can be done effectively using various online tools.

They have also provided NGOs with training in such things as how to promote their website and social media accounts through targeted online advertising, and how to make their web pages easier to find, for instance, by ensuring their website is prominent in search results when someone types in words such as "suicide prevention" or "unmarried mother".

Business students have also been deployed to smaller NGOs to look carefully at their social media accounts and advise them on how to better reach their target groups and how to raise money.

The workshops have been funded by ExCEL3, an HKU project funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust to build capacities in NGOs, and the KE Fund. Dr Chau said a follow-up survey found 75 per cent of respondents were applying or planned to apply what they learned in the workshops.

"Even larger organisations may not have the resources for this training so this has been a good way to power them up," he said, adding: "When researchers have good results, we should be sharing them and promoting them to society so people can benefit. Otherwise, it is like the work is wasted. We've tried to make our findings useful and practical to others."

Dr Michael Chau of the School of Business received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange (KE) Award 2016 ofthe Faculty of Business and Economics for the project 'Engaging Young People Online'.