Driving Social Change: The Dragonfly Effect

Dragonfly Of all the books you will find in the bookstore about social media, The Dragonfly Effect [Amazon affiliate link] by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith is the most approachable and useful to the person who's not spending half their day in social networks and wants to understand the potential of connecting technology and personal life to impact social change.

If this sounds like a mouthful it's my own doing. The book is quite simple in its structure, and clear in its purpose and exposition. You will feel involved while reading it.

I loved the story about tech entrepreneur Sameer Bhatia and physician Vinay Chakravarthy — it put people right in the center of the action and demonstrates the power of community building to raise awareness and drive action.

The book will help you see one framework to use for harnessing the dragonfly effect:

  • focus – identify one single, measurable goal
  • grab attention – cut through the noise with something personal, unexpected, visceral, and visual
  • engage – create a personal connection, accessing higher emotions through deep empathy, authenticity, and telling a story. In other words, empowering the audience to care enough to want to dosomething themselves
  • take action – enable and empower others to take action. To make action easy you must prototype, deploy, and continuously tweak tools, templates, and programs designed to move people from being customers to becoming team members who want to further the cause and the change beyond themselves

Doing something important, bringing about social change, is a worthy goal and focus. The problem of misallocating our attention and effort is real, Dan Ariely reminds us in the afterword.

Once you understand how to get people to care, you also realize that you have the power to influence what people do, how they spend their time, and how they spend their money — simultaneously influencing where they will pay less attention and time.

Social power is no different than any other kind of power, use with care. Aaker and Smith's experience and training in psychology, customer strategy, and operations inform the framework and offer a welcome subtext in the material, which is designed and written for learning.


[Disclosure: I received a copy of The Dragonfly Effect from the authors via a non-PR pitch by Jessie Young who took the time to tell me why the book would interest me, specifically. By doing so, she demonstrated principles from the book. Which is why her message and what it communicated stood out in my crowded inbox. This review and recommendation is based upon the quality of the material — and not on how I obtained it.]

If you enjoyed this post from Conversation Agent, subscribe, share and like it.

0 responses to “Driving Social Change: The Dragonfly Effect”

  1. Valeria – Now would you say that it is a great Christmas present for the executive who just doesn’t see the usefulness of community building or the wife who is trying to understand what it is that I do?

  2. Valeria, thanks for this review. I have been wanting to read “The Dragonfly Effect” but it kept getting bumped down the list by others. I am moving it to the top of the list now! 🙂
    Also, glad to see that their outreach was genuine and targeted. Perhaps PR professionals should read the book ASAP? 😉

  3. I really like all four of those points, and it’s nice to see them and be able to think, “Hey, we’re already doing that!”
    – The big picture. Find a core principle you believe in, figure out how to track it, then support it.
    – Personalize. Cut through the noise with something personalized showing individuals their needs and opinions are valuable.
    – Metaphor. A picture is worth 1,000 words, but a metaphor is worth 1,000 pictures. Stories are metaphors for the big picture.
    – Inspire. When people see the big picture in their own terms, they can see how participation will benefit them and they will act accordingly.
    …which will support the core of the big picture, be trackable, cut through the noise, personalize, and add greater detail to the big picture.
    Say, it’s like an engine! I feel a metaphor coming on.
    /runs off to bottle the sparks

  4. Valeria – Thanks for the thoughtful review. I think your summary points really bring out the reasons we wrote the book. I also appreciate that our efforts to get the book in your hands rang true to the principles we advocate.

  5. Social media always helps me connect brilliant people to wonderful causes. I use Groupon.com and # Foursquare on social media. Do you also include tutorial on that?

  6. “The Dragonfly Effect” is a great book about a great topic and, you’re right, a practical guide to those who aren’t social media “gurus/ninjas/experts/whatever”.
    I was fortunate enough to host a Twitter chat last week with Andy Smith (@kabbenbock) on “Social Media for Social Good,” and he was generous enough to share his insight with us (summary of chat is available here- http://jasonmikula.com/2010/12/usguys-chat-2-social-media-for-social-good/ -for those interested).
    Even if you’re not in the realm of non-profit or advocacy, the lessons learned about “cause marketing” apply across the spectrum. Getting users to “buy in” to your cause – even if it is a for-profit entreprise – is the best kind of marketing you can do.
    Thanks for the post, Valeria.

  7. @Alessandra – which to me is where social is really powerful.
    @Jeff – it depends on the executive… I’ve meet many enlightened ones who would use the material to inform their thinking. Perhaps a way to touch upon topics where all humans are vulnerable – health, the need for support and outreach – will help the others see the light. Definitely helpful for those who don’t live and breathe this daily.
    @Beth – having now read *so many* books on social media, it was refreshing to read one focused on social change with new stories. And yes, the outreach was well done.
    @Brian – isn’t it fun how the dots connect once we get excited about possibility and opportunity?
    @Andy – I know how hard it is to write a book, especially since choices need to be made about what to leave out. And often, as in this case, the idea is hatched in conversations or in the course of living life situations and finding a way to make them better/change or affect them somehow. Kudos to you both for making it happen and keep up the good work.
    @Mark – the book is more about harnessing the power of technology to affect social change, more than about tools. There are other materials that are more tool-specific.
    @Jason – thank you for sharing the link. I agree with you, this will help any business that wants to affect change. Marketing and branding are a symptom of a good business model (cause).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *