It’s no longer just who you know, it’s what you share. Social media is like the great equalizer that’s leveled the playing field for marketers. It allows mass reach on a limited budget, something that was once only available for big brands with huge budgets.
Social currency is often described as ways that brands might go about inserting themselves into the cultural conversation, and in theory, generating more awareness than they might find through conventional means like a tv commercial or promo driver. And its been incredibly effective in many cases, with the right approach.
With social currency we’ve become curators, sharing and contributing for a variety of reasons. Building social capital is the new currency, and brands have been quick to realize its worth. Our now hyper-social world allows marketers to listen, adapt, and exceed expectations. Being able to deliver creates advocates.
Ask yourself – what value does my social currency deliver? Is it information or knowledge? Entertainment? Perhaps it provides a personal value such as fame or exclusivity. Is it useful, allowing something to be accomplished easier or in less time? Or perhaps it simply has value like some form of monetary compensation, rewards, prizes, or a free trial.
In a study by Vivaldi partners, social currency has been broken down into 6 dimensions; identity, affiliation, conversation, information, advocacy and utility. the importance of each depends on a variety of considerations, from the stage of brand development or the nature of the market, to factors like the category and industry.
You can read the whole study here.
Some interesting commentary on social currency from Russ Klein, Chief Marketing Officer of Burger King:
“Social currency is like a good joke. When a bunch of friends sit around and tell jokes, what are they really doing? Entertaining one another? Sure, for a start. But they are also using content — mostly unoriginal content that they’ve heard elsewhere — in order to lubricate a social occasion. And what are most of us doing when we listen to a joke? Trying to memorize it so that we can bring it somewhere else. The joke itself is social currency. “Invite Harry. He tells good jokes. He’s the life of the party.”
Think of this the next time you curse that onslaught of email jokes cluttering up your inbox. The senders think they’ve given you a gift, but all they really want is an excuse to interact with you. If the joke is good enough, this means the currency is valuable enough to earn them a response.
That’s why the most successful TV shows, web sites, and music recordings are generally the ones that offer the most valuable forms of social currency to their fans. Sometimes, like with mainstream media, the value is its universality. In the US right now, the quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is enjoying tremendous ratings because it gives its viewers something to talk about with one another the next day. It’s a form of mass spectacle. And, not coincidentally, what is the object of the game? To demonstrate one’s facility with a variety of forms of social currency! Contestants who can answer a long stream of questions about everything from sports and movies to science and history, are rewarded with a million dollars. They are social currency champions.”
Great analogy. The real challenge with social currency is about creating value. As curators, its our responsibility to provide or share compelling content to drive the value of our personal brand. With corporate brands, its more than a responsibility, its crucial to their social media success.
If you’re attempting to position yourself as a thought leader, the dialogue begins as a communicator which includes engagement. But if you constantly tweet about your lunch I may lose interest. Thank goodness for twitter lists. There is an increase in regurgitated information and noise with social media, so the challenge comes back to differentiating what you put out, while creating value, and marketing yourself. It’s a way that online branding that provides more control, rather than broadcasting for the sake of building awareness. Repetition works, but it also creates a stigma sometimes known as “vendo caecus”, which is loosely translated as banner blindness.
One thing to keep in mind is social media is a means, a channel, a tool. You can choose to entertain, educate, create advocates, or possibly another approach, but you’ll want to have some form of strategy to build your brand online. A great way to start is by making it easy for fans to engage, allowing them to share too.