by Professor Jennifer Aaker.

I’m *really* thrilled to introduce you to Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford University, CA, who wrote this post for HushPlush Bubble. Enjoy!

Two years ago, I thought social media and its applications were quite simply a waste of time. Who would want follow random people on Twitter, Tweet about grocery store experiences, or update their Facebook status to say they have a case of the Mondays? I thought: would I ever want to do any of this instead of:

  • enjoying the sunshine,
  • working on a research paper, or
  • talking to someone IN REAL LIFE?

With only one foot in social media, I was looking for a way out. But my husband, Andy Smith, an early-adopter of all things tech and geek par excellence kept me in. I saw him surf the space, learn fascinating, obscure stuff, sign on to betas of scores of services and meet fascinating new people. I thought there was a small chance I might be able to get just a tiny glimmer of the value he saw in the space, and though I was doing my best to hang on with an open mind, I was really just looking for a plausible reason to completely bail out.

It all changed for me in May 2008. I was teaching a class called Creativity and Innovation at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. On the last day of most of my classes, I summarize my ‘top ten’ list – insights I hoped students took away from the class. However, after many years of teaching, I finally realized my summaries were rarely ‘sticky.’ Few people seemed to get much out of them and it was just better to ask students what they learned. My MBA student, Robert Chatwani, responded that he learned to ‘reverse the rules’ to a greater degree, and shared a slide deck to illustrate how he and his friends and family tried to adopt that ‘reverse the rules’ philosophy during that semester. Earlier in the year, his best friend, Sameer Bhatia, was diagnosed with leukemia. He needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Doctors estimated Sameer’s chances of finding a match at 1 in 20,000. Robert and Sameer’s friends and family took that challenge as simple and clear. If the chances were 1 in 20,000 to find a match, that meant all they had to do was register 20,000 South East Asians into the bone marrow registry. But they had only weeks to accomplish this goal. The story that Robert then told changed me fundamentally. He laid out how Sameer’s friends and family harnessed free social media – personal blogs, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Google Docs – as well as email and some traditional media – to get 24,611 South East Asians into the bone marrow registry in 11 short weeks. And among those 24,611 was a perfect match for Sameer.

This story changed me fundamentally; it became clear that – with a single clear goal, and an ability to understand:

  • the psychology of grabbing attention,
  • how to tell a story to engage others, and
  • how to design for openness (enabling anyone with will to act easily and nimbly),

…social media could be used for extreme good, in a way that is astonishingly effective. This story also has changed my family’s life. It has motivated the creation of a Stanford GSB case, a Stanford GSB elective, a book, The Dragonfly Effect that Andy and I co-authored as well as a business, Vonavona Ventures that Andy started to support organizations that take a hybrid approach to success.

Here’s the video:

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Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming book The Dragonfly Effect, Design For The Ripple Effect, due out this Fall. Many many thanks to Jennifer and Andy for this contribution and for letting me contribute my drop to their book.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, she is @aaker and Andy is @kabbenbock.
As always, feel free to connect with @merrybubbles

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