The Value of Social Currency

Every CEO, marketer and PR guru thrives on a simple delicacy – getting publicity for their brand. However, coming up with new and inventive ways of doing so can be challenging, especially in a digital age where every business has direct access to talk to their potential customers. From ‘tag and share’ competitions to branded hash-tags, influencer marketing to paid-for advertisements, the key is to try and get your message spread as far and wide with as little cost to your business.

We buy our ‘social value’ through how we utilise social media. Brands can likewise ‘buy’ value and customer awareness for themselves through tapping into this.

One lesser discussed method is the value of social currency. As a marketing concept, social currency concerns the way people behave in reciprocal ways when using social networks. If we’re going to get technical, it is based on the social capital theory – but essentially, it means we don’t share boring stories because we don’t want people to think we’re boring, and we do share cool stories, jokes or videos because they make us look good. In a nutshell, we buy our ‘social value’ through how we utilise social media. Brands can likewise ‘buy’ value and customer awareness for themselves through tapping into this.

A decade-long study by Professor Jonah Berger found that there are three ways in we can make people want to share our brand with their peers in order to earn social currency. Firstly, through establishing what is remarkable about your brand. What makes you unique or remarkable? Why would people be compelled to share your news or products with their friends? How are you different to your competitors?

Starbucks rewards

Next, by utilising game mechanics; this means motivating customers to remain engaged in your brand, or in performing certain actions because there will be a reward or achievement at the end. Game mechanics is very much about encouraging positive competition and motivating people to want to be better than others. Loyalty schemes and rewards cards (i.e. buy 9 coffees, get the 10th free) are a great example of this.

When people are waiting to share some ‘hot off the press’ news that only they will know, you’ll soon see attention for your brand grow.

Finally, the third way is by making people feel like they are insiders. This works on the principle of exclusivity – people desire things that are scarce far more than they do when they’re in thick supply. When people are waiting to share some ‘hot off the press’ news that only they will know, you’ll soon see attention for your brand grow. It should be noted though that with all the hype this creates, you still need to have a rock solid product.

02 priority

02 offer a great incentive with 02 Priority; customers can get access to free offers, discounts, prize draws and top concert tickets ahead of anyone else. Similarly, when Gmail, Google+, Pinterest and Spotify all first began, they were an invite-only service. Even Facebook launched initially to a limited audience. It can help with creating buzz, but also with beta testing to iron out any problems before it reaches a wider audience. With ‘insider’ content, it is ultimately about making your customers feel special, excited and unique.

In 2014, Marc Jacobs came up with possibly one of the most clever, socially-savvy marketing techniques I’ve seen in some time.

There is one other way in which social currency can be used that I haven’t mentioned so far, and it’s possibly one of the most clever, socially-savvy marketing techniques I’ve seen in some time. It came from Marc Jacobs during New York Fashion Week 2014. He came up with a pop-up idea called ‘Tweet Shop’. It enabled his fans to pay for products through using their social media posts as currency. Quite literally, their image became ‘money’. It is a concept that has been surprisingly untapped – the idea has mutual benefit. Social images hold inherent value.

marc jacobs tweet shop

For every picture that people shared, their network got to see a positive post relating to Marc Jacobs. The images added extra credibility to the comment or review – and there was no cost involved for the customer. In return, they received a reward for their participation. This no doubt instilled a sense of loyalty towards the brand, plus gave them access to another product to photograph. The fact they got the item so easily would no doubt be reason enough to write another post, sharing with others how simple it was to do. This means stirring up even more attention for the brand who, through all of it, look as though they are being very generous.

The brief was to find a way to ‘use social media to create mass brand awareness and sales. Plus excite, engage and reward existing #DaisyGirl fan base.’

The brief they gave their creative agency was to find a way to ‘use social media to create mass brand awareness and sales. Plus excite, engage and reward existing #DaisyGirl fan base.’ The result was an experiential, innovative industry-first concept. People could ‘tweet for treats’ without ever paying a penny. The more creative their tweet was, the higher the value of the item they got in return. As the creative agency note, ‘This innovative concept tied with strategic execution created millions of online impressions, over 400 pieces of press coverage and thousands of high-quality user-generated content (UGC).’ Part of its success lies in the fact that, as Forbes found at the time, 51% of millennials trusted UGC more than brand content.

Consumers and Social Networks

Source: Incite Group


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