Essential social media reader: “The Dragonfly Effect”

May 2, 2011

The Dragonfly Effect should be on the bookshelf of every union communications officer. It is a short primer on how to use social media to achieve positive social change written by Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturers Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith.

The “effect” is based on the four “wings” of the dragon-fly – an insect that can “move in any direction when its four wings are working in concert” – “Focus”, “Grab Attention”, “Engage” and “Take Action”. I read this book recently and was inspired. It is a fantastic, simple road map for progressive organisations to effectively use social media. It also reinforced must of what I’ve been advocating for the last two years on this blog.

In light of the Progressive Australia conference I attended on the weekend, the lessons in The Dragonfly Effect should be learned by heart by Labor, unions and other progressive organisations.

This isn’t a detailed review (although I plan on writing one) – but a call to action! If you want a comprehensive, motivational primer on how to use social media to achieve your campaign goals, get this book.

The Dragonfly Effect website has some great resources, and I suggest you take a look.

The principles of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change are:

Focus on your goal

Humanistic. Focus on who you want to help rather than jumping to solutions. Empathize with your audience to develop Points of View (POV): [USER] needs to [USER’S NEEDS] because [SURPRISING INSIGHT].

Actionable. Use tactical micro goals to achieve long-term macro goals.

Testable. Identify metrics that will inform your actions and help evaluate success. Run low-cost trials to test your assumptions. Set performance metrics to measure progress, and plan how to solicit feedback from your audience before you launch.  Establish deadlines, and celebrate small wins along the way.

Clarity. Keep your goals clearly focused to increase your odds of success and generate momentum.  Start with the simplest behavior you can change at a low cost.

Happiness. Ensure that your goal is personally meaningful such that the thought of achieving the goal would bring happiness to you and your audience – in some way.

Grab attention

Personal. Find personal hooks, ranging from physiological to self-actualization needs that can be understood within seconds.

Unexpected. People like consuming and then sharing awe-inspiring information. Draw them in by piquing their curiosity. Look to reframe the familiar.

Visceral. Design your campaign so that it triggers senses– sight, sound, hearing and taste. Music is powerful and can often tap underlying emotions.

Visualize. Show, don’t tell.  Photos and videos speak millions of words. Synthesize your thoughts with quick visuals and show them to your POV for feedback.

Engage your audience

Tell a story. Find compelling, sticky stories to convey critical information.  Remember: less is more.  Stories have arcs.

Empathize. Build a 2-way relationship with your audience. What really matters to them in your campaign?

Authenticity. True passion is contagious. The more authentic you seem, the easier it is to connect with you and your cause.  Build common ground by sharing values and beliefs.

Match the media. How we say something can be as important as what we say. Align your communication with the right context.

Take action

Easy. Make it simple as simple as possible for others to act. Prioritize your calls to action. Your campaign is more likely to succeed if people understand what you need and can take immediate action.

Fun. Consider game play, competition, humor, and rewards. Can you make people feel like a kid again?

Tailored. People glom on to programs that they perceive they are uniquely tailored to them – where they are uniquely advantaged to do well and have disproportionate impact.  Here, people feel special and a part of something bigger than themselves.

Open. No one should have to ask you permission to ask.  Provide a frame – your POV and a story – and empower others with accessible tools.

To accompany The Dragonfly Effect, you should also take a look at Made to Stick – a book I reviewed here and which is referred to constantly.


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