Andy Smith is the co-author of a fabulous new book called The Dragonfly Effect, a book about using social media to drive social change. A serial tech marketer and entrepreneur, Andy is a Principal of Vonavona Ventures where he advises and bootstraps technical and social ventures with guidance in marketing and customer strategy.
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Andy, it seems to me that using social media to drive social change could be expanded as a goal for business to use social media to drive impact, period. Would you agree with that? And if so, how could my audience of broadcasters do that?
Absolutely. That’s exactly the way we see it. In fact, a lot of the companies that we profile in The Dragonfly Effect are bridging this gap between CSR (corporate social responsibility) and creating an excellent product and doing things that make sense for their business.
One example is the way Starbucks expanded the way they thought of themselves to embrace the concept of fair trade grown beans as their sole source for coffee beans, because they extended the definition of the people who were involved in making the product. It wasn’t just the people in the stores. It wasn’t just the people in management. It was also the people who actually created the product.
Similarly, the idea that someone can make impact and think about how are they making a difference, how are they making a great product, how are they connecting with customers; it’s all about the meaning behind it. It’s the ‘Why do you do what you do? Why do you get up and go to work each day?’ It’s probably not for the paycheck. It’s for something else, something deeper that motivates you.
We encourage businesses to define that meaning and motivate others through the power of storytelling to generate the impact you speak of.
There’s a tendency in broadcasting and in radio to think of this kind of do-gooding as separate from the business itself. I’m not so sure of that. I’m thinking nowadays that the two things can be integrally related and doing good – creating social change – can reflect on the business in direct and positive ways. Do you agree?
Absolutely. I think that the concept of CSR is evolving to embrace that. It no longer make sense that a company in good times has money they set aside for good works – pet projects of the CEO – that are unrelated to the business. When the opportunity is really there to support something that the business and the employees and the customers believe in, that becomes a deeper reason for doing business with that company.
Whether or not you can see it directly offset a marketing bottom line, it certainly offsets other bottom lines. It lowers turnover and increases the likelihood that given two commodity products, the one consumers are going to choose is the one that comes closer to sharing her values.
Give me more examples of a brand that was able to make a tangible bottom line value enhancement or ROI on the basis of creating social change?
Consider Coca Cola and the idea of bringing happiness into peoples’ lives. They did this project that was focused on reconnecting with youth – the Coke happiness machine. That’s about associating a product with happiness that doesn’t necessarily have a good reason to be directly associated with happiness through the use of social technology.
So there are number of worthwhile metrics besides ROI, and companies like Coke are assessing all these metrics.
Absolutely. In fact, I think one of the blessings and curses of our digital marketing era is that you tend to fund and focus on the things you can measure easily. So we get obsessed with hits on websites and click-throughs and “likes,” things that don’t necessarily have any true value to you as a business.
You need to go deeper than that. You need to figure out what are the long-term things that have persistent value when it comes to employee retention, customer retention, consumers’ willingness to recommend, all these things that are not easily measured in a Google Analytics framework.
The book is built on the metaphor of the dragonfly with four wings, and the strategy you outline in the book likewise has four wings. Can you walk through what those are and the significance of them?
The metaphor of the dragonfly is a symbol of change and rebirth, and it also relates to the fact that dragonflies are the only insect or animal that can fly or move in any direction, backwards, or even hover when all four wings are beating in concert.
The first wing of the dragonfly is one that relates to FOCUS. It requires developing a clear and simple and motivating goal that everyone can get around and figure out what it is we’re trying to achieve.
The goal has to be motivating. We can say we want to have our first billion dollar quarter, but how motivating is that? It’s a good measurable goal, but does that give you happiness?
Does the goal matter to you? Does it matter to the person who is creating the program? Does it matter to the person you’re approaching. Does it matter to everybody who would help contribute to its success?
The next thing you need to do is grab someone’s ATTENTION.
We encourage people to focus on messages that are simple and visceral and visual and match the media in which they’re communicated.
It’s about recognizing where people are coming from and figuring out how to reach them there, speaking to them as the people they are, in the situation they’re in at that time, rather than coming from where a company is or where your product is at the time.
Then you need to ENGAGE them. This really comes through storytelling.
Irritating banner ads may grab your attention but do they ever get you to do anything? Converting attention into caring or engagement is the key here. Getting together a clear, truthful, authentic story that motivates people to act and again focuses on where who are, where you are coming from, and what you believe in.
The fourth element is the critical one for doing this in the social space, and we refer to it as ENABLING ACTION.
The idea is that is that your audience wants to do more than just click to buy or volunteer or participate in some way, they want to join your campaign. They want to become part of the action, and you’re missing a huge opportunity if you don’t enable them to act.
So you have to have the right goal, grab attention, engage and tell the story that makes them care, and enable action so they can go forward and be part of your army.
That’s a great summation – focus, grab attention, engage and take action. So where should a broadcaster start?
Start with why you and the best people who work here come to work everyday. What do you believe in? What is it that makes this the place you work and this the thing you do?
Because that’s where your compass is. Start with that.
The area where we find that people really should spend the most time is in FOCUS. Because really where people lose it is that they don’t feel that their goal is worthy of any kind of commitment. Strong goals are passion projects. When you do them right, you stay up all night to make them happen.
So gather the people who are your best inside and outside and figure out why they’re involved, why do they care, and what are the problems they seek to solve? From there, the rest actually falls into place and everything from there is execution.
One of the groups we profiled said it’s important to fail as fast as you can. Always do this, or beg forgiveness rather than asking permission, and take the chance that you can actually succeed in a way that will surprise you.