Need a Social Media Strategy? Make Like a Dragonfly

Last Updated Sep 16, 2010 7:24 AM EDT

As the young and technologically adept member of your team, you've been charged with coming up with a social media strategy. Sure, you know how to keep your friends entertained on Facebook, but this is a task of a whole different order. Whether your company sells socks or financial services, how can you create a buzz for your products and ensure your message gets forwarded around the web? For those who are lazy and unbothered by profanity, [bad] answers to that question are available here.

Professor Jennifer Aaker and tech marketer Andy Smith, however, were after good answers and decided to tackle the question in their new book, The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. Recently, they outlined the essence of their ideas in an interview for Stanford Knowledgebase.

Their basic argument is to construct a campaign around a cause, and make it emotional. They use the metaphor of the dragonfly, the only insect that can fly in any direction, as their guiding example. To capture the dragonfly's agility, social media managers need to ensure they have four principles of the medium -- what Aaker and Smith call "wings" -- working properly.

  • Focus. Concentrate on a single clear outcome rather than "thinking big." The idea is to concentrate your resources on this. The book outlines several steps for doing this: Set a goal, break it into smaller sub-goals, decide how to measure success, and create a concrete, specific action plan you can revisit and use as a management guideline.
  • Grab Attention. Once you know what you want to do, you need to get your audience's attention. Key tips: Be original, keep it simple, make it grounded, and use visual imagery.
  • Engage. To "tee up" your audience to take action, get them emotionally involved in your cause. To do this, you need to understand what engages people. Stories and personal engagement are key. You should tell your story using a variety of media. For example, some people prefer Facebook to Twitter or email to blogs. Use these online connections to engage people in offline actions. Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign was adept at using email and text messages to connect with supporters, and it also got some of those supporters to organize campaign events themselves.
  • Take Action. Once you know what you want to accomplish and have engaged your audience, it's time to get your audience to act in a way that makes your cause become its cause, usually by asking people to volunteer time, money, or both. It's critical, particularly early on, that people get positive reinforcement; you need to give your audience feedback in real time reflecting its contribution.
And if you think that these principles are only appropriate for the likes of UNICEF and Save the Children, Smith and Aaker argue for a far broader applicability of their ideas.
For-profit companies are increasingly using these strategies to engage employees and customers, either within the framework of a corporate foundation or corporate social responsibility office, or as a way to increase the appeal of their product by tying it to a social good.

"We define social good broadly, as something where significant benefit extends beyond you or the organization," Smith said. "The more relevant the good is to what you do, the more customers are likely to reward you for doing it, through product choice or loyalty." For example, a case study of Starbucks shows how the company reinvigorated its brand by becoming the world's largest buyer of "fair-trade-certified" coffee -- using a blog and Twitter to connect with its customers.

The interview is in-depth so check out the full article for many more insights.

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(Photo courtesy of Flick user kaibara87, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.