Testing emphasis message frames and metaphors on social media to engage boaters to learn about preventing the spread of zebra mussels.
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.