The Dragonfly Effect

“The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change” is a book by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith.

The authors use the dragonfly as a metaphor to underline the four key elements of a change movement in the social media. The dragonfly is the only insect able to move in any direction when its four wings work in harmony. Based on real world cases, the authors discovered that there is a four step process to start a change movement on the Internet.
Last year I started to collect books on social media, including Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter. Most of these recently published books try to explain the basic mechanisms of these social media tools. The Dragonfly Effect is different, because the authors are not trying to explain a single social media tool, but attempting to clarify how to reach a single, concrete goal using social media. The goal might be to find an almost impossible bone marrow match for a friend, to raise millions for cancer research or to elect the president of the United States.
The very first and most impressive case the authors found is the case of Sameer Bhatia. Bhatia also a Stanford graduate with Indian roots who contributed to the popular web site MonkeyBin. On a routine business trip to India when he was 31, he started to feel sick and doctors diagnosed him with leukemia, a type of cancer that starts in blood-forming tissues, such as bone marrow. It was disappointing news, similar to losing your bride on your wedding day.
His friends, entrepreneurs and professionals from the Internet world, did not want to accept it and they decided to attack Bhatia’s illness with social media. It was a decision you might see on science fiction or action movies. Bhatia’s leukemia could be cured; however, he needed a bone marrow transplant and the odds of finding a bone marrow match were one in 20,000. Another problem was that Bhatia and his friends were in the US, whereas the match should be found among South Asians, and they only had a few months to find an exact match.
They used web 2.0 services — interactive web tools like Facebook, Google Docs and YouTube to organize bone marrow drives all over the US. In 11 weeks, supporters registered 24,611 South Asians in the bone marrow registry and found a match for Bhatia. The story is more than this, not just Bhatia, but 80 other people who were suffering from the same disease found exact matches as well. Although this attempt was started just for Bhatia, it helped 81 people, a celebratory consequence.
The story showed that social media is not just a stupid tool to say that you’re drinking coffee and happy on Twitter. The social media might be a very good tool to trigger a social movement or change in society.
There is a four-wing model the authors of the book suggest to anybody who desires to create change through social media: focus, grab attention, engage and take action. By analyzing the story of Bhatia, the authors emphasize the importance of setting a clear goal. Second, to reach the goal, we have to grab attention by presenting a personal and unexpected message. Third, we have to create a personal connection by telling a story. Finally, we have to create some mechanisms to empower others to take action.
The authors analyze different case studies like Gap, Starbucks, Nike and Groupon. Most of the books based on technology will be obsolete, soon. I would guess that The Dragonfly Effect, however, will remain a reference book because the authors suggest a model of social change.
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