The Dragonfly Effect

How to strategically use social media in sustainability?
The Dragonfly Effect
Publ. date 31 Jan 2011
During World AIDS Day, Nike launched a broad campaign to combat AIDS. By bringing a red shoe lace to the market, Nike supported the good cause. With a mega celebrity like Didier Drogba as ambassador, Nike’s ‘Lace up saves lives’ campaign was communicated through several social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Within one day, Nike reached over 10 million people with the campaign and more than half a million tweets turned red.

Besides this particular example, there are several other initiatives that draw attention through social media. Some of these stories can connect thousands or even millions of people and give them an incentive to act. The possible reach of Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin is enormous. However, the question is how to make use of this enormous potential and strategically use social media to create a positive online buzz?

To answer this question, Aaker and Smith in their Stanford Social Innovation Review article are using the metaphor of the ‘Dragonfly Effect’. The dragonfly is the only insect that is capable to maneuver in every possible direction if the wings are positioned correctly. The dragonfly symbolizes that a small movement could lead to large consequences. The model that Aaker and Smith are using consists of the four wings of the dragonfly: the social media message should 1. have a clear focus, 2. be able to draw the attention of the target group, 3. engage and 4. trigger people to take action.

Another strong example comes from Heineken’s action to organize an opera in Milan during the Champions League match between AC Milan and Real Madrid. Journalists and employees where asked by their bosses (who were part of the action) to go to the opera instead of the football match. What these people did not know was that they the opera was broadcasted live on Italian television. When everyone was ready for a long night of opera, the choir started the Champion league tune and the match appeared live on the big screen. Results of the Heineken opera joke: 1.5 million live viewers, 10 million people watched it on the news the day after and 5 million unique visitors on the internet. The word was spread via Youtube, Twitter and Facebook and resulted in thousands of positive reactions on blogs and forums.

According to Aaker and Smith, a message communicated through social media should contain the following four factors:     
1. Personal
2. Unexpected
3. Visual (Show, don’t tell)
4. Trigger the senses (vision, sound, hearing, taste)

The dragonfly effect shows that expensive marketing campaigns are not always necessary to generate an effect. Or as Aaker and Smith are saying: with enthusiasm, a clear key message, a lot of energy and a good wireless connection, almost everything is possible!

Source: Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011. Volume 9, Number 1. 

About Jan van der Kaaij

Sustainability expert in strategy development, DJSI and sustainable innovation, with a hands-on approach and always committed to go for the max. | 

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