By: Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith
Everywhere you look there seems to be another book, article, blog post or tweet on the importance of harnessing social media. But few explain why. And even fewer explain how.
What distinguishes social media strategies that work from those that don’t? One common element of effective campaigns is the emphasis on a single focused goal. A second is the ability to grab the reader’s attention, tell a story, and architect a viral campaign that helps spread the message.
Successful Social Media Engagement
The online retailer Zappos offers an excellent example. Zappos uses social media to distinguish their company culture and engage people in their mission to deliver more than the products they sell, clothing and shoes, but happiness too. The company, known for its consumer-centric business model and lively corporate atmosphere, is committed to creating a company that is always in close contact with its customers.
With active Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages, the Zappos corporate culture encourages people to share their opinions, product feedback, and stories, helping create corporate transparency. Have a story about how you’ve “delivered happiness” at your company? Head over to CEO Tony Hseih’s website and share it; they’ll add it to their storybank where people around the country recount how they have “delivered happiness” in their own lives.
Zappos is a great example of a company who harnesses Twitter to cultivate relationships with its customers, by offering personalized and relatable updates through the micro-blogging platform. These relationships, and the candor that Zappos displayed by connecting directly with their customers, really paid off; the company received numerous e-mails from customers explaining that, “I decided to buy from Zappos today because I follow you on Twitter. I feel like I know you.” More importantly, Zappos was able to use Twitter to start collecting a significant asset -- stories about the brand.
Zappos “followers” can re-tweet their favorite stories and insights, augmenting Zappos’ message faster than ever before and further cultivating Zappos’ personality, culture and goals. Social media became a platform through which Zappos employs customers and employees alike spread stories, and ultimately happiness, to the each other -- one tweet at a time.
New Social Media Strategies
The ability to bootstrap entrepreneurial ventures with social media is growing exponentially. One example is Profounder, which fosters community support of entrepreneurs by providing a platform for crowd-funding. Profounder provides open access to micro-loans by allowing entrepreneurs to tap their friends, families and customers for resources, using the social web to carry the message.
Another case where social media is fueling viral action is in the corporate citizenship arena. Take the case of Nike. In July 2009, the company launched the WE Portal, an online platform designed to empower its 30,000 employees around the globe to connect with, contribute to, and evangelize social and environmental causes.
The We Portal established an internal social network that matches employees by location and passion with causes they can contribute to, creating a space where people can connect and give back. On the WE Portal, Nike employees donate their time, voice, money and talent to the things that matter most to them -- enabled by the tools available to them in their social networks. This not only helps Nike with employee retention, but recruiting and community relations as well.
In our book, The Dragonfly Effect, we explore these stories and outline a model that highlights how to use social media for infectious action. The book is named after the only insect that can move swiftly in any direction, and even hover, when its four wings are beating in harmony.
The four “wings” of this model -- Focus, Grab Attention, Engage, and Take Action -- work together to produce a desired change can take many forms: social good, employee morale, customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith are co-authors of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. (Josey-Bass, 2010.) A social psychologist and marketer, Jennifer Aaker is General Atlantic Professor of Marketing, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Andy Smith is a Principal at Vonavona Ventures, where he advises companies on marketing, customer strategy and operations. Find them on Facebook and Twitter: @aaker, @kabbenbock and @dflyeffect.