Harnessing Social Media’s Power, for Business and Society

“The Power of Social Technology” is a popular course at Stanford Business School that helps students use social media effectively, partly by adopting design thinking techniques. Professor Jennifer Aaker and co-author Andy Smith turned the course into a book, adding the latest consumer psychology research and many cases.

Part 1 (of 3)
Beneath the easy-to-grasp principles in THE DRAGONFLY EFFECT lie research results on a variety of marketing-related topics—happiness, emotional contagion, life satisfaction, the most effective ways to get people to engage and act, persuasion, viral marketing, stickiness, framing messages, and neurological research. These short research summaries are the real riches in this book on leveraging the new social media.

The book’s mascot is the dragonfly, which has long been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings, and change across cultures. Beyond that, the dragonfly is the only insect able to propel itself in any direction, with tremendous speed and force, when its four wings are working in concert. The Dragonfly Effect results from this integrated effort.

So what exactly is the Dragonfly Effect? It’s an elegant, effective outcome in which individuals armed with an internet connection and a few social tools produce colossal results, disproportionate to the small amount of resources used to achieve the results.

Four key skills are needed to achieve the Dragonfly Effect: Focus, Grab Attention, Engage, and Take Action.

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Ms. Aaker and Mr. Smith (who are married to each other, by the way) describe how these skills have been used to create widespread corporate engagement with consumers and employees alike, to raise millions for cancer research, and even to elect the current President of the United States.

They lay out many original case studies of Dragonfly Effects achieved by global organizations such as Gap, Starbucks, Kiva, Nike, eBay, and Facebook, as well as start-ups such as Groupon and COOKPAD. Insights are gathered from an “ecosystem” of contributors, including the founders of eBay’s World of Good, storytellers from Pixar, and leaders from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, as well as entrepreneurs, investors, and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.

The Design Institute, in particular, contributes insights on design thinking that are woven throughout the book. Design thinking is a creative process that encourages a human-centric orientation, hypotheses testing, and frequent rapid prototyping. It protects against the frequent failure of initiatives that were developed with the brand, organization, or cause foremost in mind, rather than putting individuals’ needs first.

Adding to the value of the book are the online Dragonfly Toolkit, Dragonfly Frameworks, Dragonfly Tips, and Expert Insights. The Toolkit, for example, provides social media cheat sheets, flow-charts, and boot camps specifically designed for people with moderate to low technical proficiency. Dragonfly Frameworks includes new models that will help you implement your goal. Go to www.DragonflyEffect.com.

Wing 1, Focus
The first wing requires setting a single focused goal to provide direction, motivation, and operational guidance. To be most effective this singular goal must embody five design principles captured in the mnemonic HATCH.

  • Humanistic. Focus on understanding your audience rather than making assumptions about quick solutions.
  • Actionable. Use short-term tactical micro goals to achieve long-term macro goals.
  • Testable. Before you launch, identify metrics that will help evaluate your progress and inform your actions. Establish deadlines, and celebrate small wins along the way.
  • Clarity. Keep your goal clear to increase your odds of success and generate momentum.
  • Happiness. Ensure that your goals are meaningful to you and your audience.

One of the best examples of these principles in action is the Barack Obama campaign for the U.S. Presidency. He won his race, according to analysts at Edelman Research, by “converting everyday people into engaged and empowered volunteers, donors, and advocates through social networks, email advocacy, text messaging, and online video.”

Using a variety of social media tools, the Obama campaign had a very focused message and vision, built on three words: hope, change, action. It utilized a clear call to action, with every effort geared toward getting people to vote.

Its key channel was MyBarackObama.com, a sort of Facebook for Obama supporters, allowing them to create a profile, build groups, connect and chat with other registered users, find or plan offline events, and raise funds.

His campaign was able to garner 5 million supporters on fifteen different social networks. By November 2008, he had about 2.5 million Facebook supporters—nearly four times more than McCain. Obama had more than 115,000 Twitter followers—more than twenty-three times higher than McCain. People spent 14 million hours watching campaign-related Obama videos on YouTube, with 50 million viewers total—four times higher than the number of McCain’s YouTube viewers.

Political consultant Joe Trippi told the NEW YORK TIMES that the YouTube videos were more effective than TV ads because viewers chose to watch them; also, Trippi said the reach and audience of those YouTube clips would cost $47 million on broadcast TV.

The campaign sent out a total of one billion e-mails—8,000 unique e-mail messages targeted to specific segments of its 13-million-member e-mail list, with subjects ranging from state issues to social issues to donation history. The campaign ultimately gathered 3 million mobile and SMS subscribers.

Finally the Obama campaign raised $639 million from three million donors, the majority through the Internet. And he won the Presidency.

In part 2, we will review Wings 2 and 3, Grab Attention and Engage.

Writeup by Christine Arrington, May 19, 2011. e-mail: Christine.Arrington@casium.fr

Book Information
Title:   THE DRAGONFLY EFFECT
Authors: Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, with Carlye Adler
Publisher: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint
Year of Publication: 2010
ISBN Number: 978-0-470-61415-0
Hardcover: $25.95, 211 pages

Short Bio of Jennifer Aakers
A social psychologist and marketer, Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Her research focuses on time, money, and happiness. She is widely published in the leading scholarly journals in psychology and marketing, and her work has been featured in a variety of media including THE ECONOMIST, WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE NEW Y0RK TIMES, BUSINESS WEEK, FORBES, and NPR. A sought-after teacher in the field of marketing, Professor Aaker teaches in many of Stanford’s Executive Education programs, as well as teaching MBA electives. Recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award, Citibank Best Teacher Award, George Robbins Best Teacher Award, and both the Spence and Fletcher Jones Faculty Scholar Awards, she has also taught at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Columbia.

Short Bio of Andy Smith
An economist and tech marketer by training, Andy Smith is a principal of Vonavona Ventures, where he advises and bootstraps technical and social ventures with guidance in marketing, customer strategy, and operations. Over the past twenty years, he has served as an executive in the high tech industry, leading teams at Dolby Labs, BIGWORDS, LiquidWit, Intel, Analysis Group, Polaroid, Integral Inc., and PriceWaterhouse Coopers. As a guest lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Andy speaks on social technology, engineering virality, and brand building, with a focus on applying technology to address real problems. He is on the boards of 140 Proof, ProFounder, LIF Brands, Everywun, and One Family One Meal. Andy earned his MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School and holds an economics degree from Pomona College.