Nine Elements of Highly Engaging Social Media Campaigns

Book Excerpt: Organizations that harness social media for good causes also do good business.

"Social networking technologies have revolutionized the way we communicate and collaborate online," write Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith in The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. "If we use these avenues for social change, what kind of difference could we make?"

In this excerpt from The Dragonfly Effect, Aaker and Smith reveal nine characteristics essential to social media campaigns that are both highly engaging and highly effective-campaigns that help organizations do good business for good causes:

Characteristics of Highly Engaging Campaigns

  • Transparency. The brand shares news as it happens, even if it might not appear to be in its best interest. Example: Doctors Without Borders received so many responses to its request for funds to help the victims of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that it quickly fulfilled its requirements. Rather than continuing to take donations for that cause and using them for some other purpose, the organization said that it could not ethically continue to accept donations for tsunami victims.
  • Interactivity. Information flows between community and brand, and actions are initiated by both producers and consumers. Example: VolunteerMatch has become the web's most popular volunteering network by designing a service that focuses on making it easier for good people and good causes to interact and take action.
  • Immediacy. The company releases information to the community as it becomes available, rather than waiting for discrete events, such as press releases, analyst calls, or quarterly reports. Example: When criticism started circulating in the press about Kiva, suggesting that it did not work the way the founders claimed, the company quickly dispelled misunderstanding on the Kiva blog.
  • Facilitation. The company acts as a caretaker of brand development rather than attempting to control it. Example: Kiva sends Kiva Fellows out into the field to find and promote stories of entrepreneurs, developing and augmenting the brand, without Kiva headquarters exerting control over the end result.
  • Commitment. The consumers of a product or service are as committed to its success as the producers or organizers are. Example: Ordinary people are both the consumers and contributors to the global reference site Wikipedia. In 2009, for the first time, its founder called upon the users of the ad-free site to contribute. The site raised $7.5 million that year.
  • Cocreation. Ideas and the implementation of those ideas are as likely to come from the community as from the brand itself. Example: A grassroots initiative started by eBay employees turned into the eBay Green Team, a global effort by buyers, sellers, and the company itself to promote greener consumer practices.

  • Collaboration. Producers and consumers work hand in hand to develop the brand and achieve a goal. Example: Dell's IdeaStorm website allows customers to post their ideas about products Dell should introduce and to vote for the best ideas-and to become part of the product development process.
  • Experience. The consumers and company view its products or services as experiences, not just purchases. Example: When enthusiasts created the TiVo Community Forum online not long after TiVo's launch in 1999, TiVo wisely didn't move to stop it. Instead, TiVo allowed some of its employees to participate in the forum to help people get the most out of their experience.
  • Trust. As a result of transparency, cocreation, and collaboration, trust is built between the producers and the consumers of products and services. Example: Ben and Jerry's has earned trust by making the first climate-neutral ice cream, reflecting the values of its customers.

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About the Authors: Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and a social psychologist; Andy Smith is a Principal of Vonavona Ventures.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith.Copyright 2010 by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith. All rights reserved.