What is the dragonfly effect? – Part 1

Love it or hate it, social media has become an inherent part of daily life. The likes of Twitter and Facebook have transformed the way we communicate and collaborate with others, by allowing us to reach more people faster and more efficiently than ever before. In the book, The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith both authors delve into what we can do to make sense of the information.

One consequence of this is that we find ourselves overwhelmed with new information. Consider that each day millions of people log in to Facebook, posting new status updates, comments and photographs for others to see. Meanwhile, every single minute, twenty hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, while every second, hundreds of tweets are sent out to a global audience. What’s more, this hectic pace is only likely to speed up in the future.

What does this deluge of information mean? Simply, if you want to harness the power of social media to create a social impact – say to campaign for your favorite presidential candidate – you need to craft your messages carefully, or else you’ll be just another drop in the ocean. It’s not that people don’t care about what you’re saying, it’s just that attracting people’s attention is extremely difficult today!

In nature, the dragonfly is the only insect that can deftly and quickly maneuver in any direction in mid-air. It achieves this feat by using all of its four wings beautifully in concert.

Similarly, if you want to enact social change through social media, there are four “wings” that can produce astounding results, but only if used in concert as meticulously as the dragonfly’s wings.

To illustrate the point, let’s examine how these four wings are used by Samasource, a Kenyan charity organization that finds digital work for unemployed women and youths in impoverished countries.

First, there is the so-called Focus wing: you must identify a simple concrete goal that you want to motivate others to achieve. For example, Samasource’s focus is simply to provide women, youths and refugees with dignified work so they can earn a living.

Second, there’s the Grab Attention wing: if you want to reach people, you first need to get their attention. In its communications, Samasource emphasizes that unemployment can lead to social ills, such as gangs and terrorism – definite attention-grabbers!

Third, there’s the Engage wing: if you want your audience to take action on behalf of your cause, you need to make them care about it by creating a personal connection to them. Samasource does this by sharing personal stories about the people it helps, but also about the donors who provide work for them.

Finally, there’s the Take Action wing: you must enable and empower others to actually take action to further your cause. Here, Samasource offers three levels of action, the choice of which depends on the donor’s resources. The most desirable action would be for the donor to outsource work to Samasource. After that comes donating money. And, finally, the most basic supporting action is to promote the organization. This range of options helps and encourages all kinds of supporters to take part.

Check out my related post: Do you have skin in the game? – Part 1

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