Social currency: the key to customer engagement

Estimated reading time
5 minutes
1st August 2019
Author: Nick Mason
Posted in: Customer Insights, Impact & ROI, Strategy & Planning

Ever wonder why some companies get shares on social media, gossip around their product, and generally more love and attention than your company? 

Social currency is the new way to add value to customer relationships while reaping the positive effects that grow your business. Just like how money can buy us things, the things we say and do are also a form of currency. No wonder 90% of all purchases are subjected to social influences. 

Social currency involves people sharing information about the brand and discussing it in their everyday lives, without being asked. (That last part is crucial!)

Think of it like that little piggy bank you had when you were young … 

The more coins you put in (no matter how small), the more pocket money you have at the end of the month. Building strong social currency has a direct relationship with referrals, sales, and brand engagement. One of the most valuable things you can do as a marketer is cash-in on social currency. So what are we waiting for?

It sounds like something we all want. So, can we order this social currency on Amazon Prime? 

Nice try. 

Social currency takes time to build. You need to be patient in order to see the results. However, the benefits are worth it:

infographic on benefits on social currency

Take The Golden Opportunity

With the rapid rise of social media, it’s not surprising that one in three millennial consumers prefer to interact with companies via a social media channel. This is a major opportunity for brand-building, and quite frankly something that companies can’t afford to miss out on. 

By examining the main dimensions of social currency for B2B companies, it’s often the case that some of these may already be included in your marketing strategy. However, the important thing is using their influence on the right part of the customer relationship. These behaviors can be examined in more detail through the Vivaldi Group report.

  • Affiliation – building a sense of community among your customers.
  • Advocacy – creating loyalty to the brand, you want your customers to recommend it and even defend it. 
  • Conversation – create a conversation around your brand and engage customers.
  • Value – ensure that the information is giving value and utility to the customers.

In general, people talk about remarkable things, whether this is the UK heatwave, the Love Island final, or the latest takeaway sushi they tried. For something to be remarkable, it needs to be worthy of mention (worthy of the remark). Certain products and services are naturally remarkable, a study shows Subway, Google, and Target arguably have the most social currency. To be remarkable, you need to make your customers feel special. Do this, and they will tell everyone about it. It’s not rocket science.

Check out these companies who have built social currency wonderfully:

1. Nike

Using the power of “sold-out”, they can effortlessly have people lining up around the block wanting the newest Nike Air Jordans, of which they only have a certain amount. It’s pretty simple – Nike “just does it”. As a result, they sell out by lunchtime, and it’s all anyone can talk about for the rest of the day.

By creating a sense of exclusivity, customers feel lucky and proud to have the limited edition trainers. This leads to social media posts, messaging their friends, and even gossiping at work about the new kicks they stand in line for since 4 am that day. It’s a great feeling, and it creates value and utility for the customer. They have what they want and they want everyone to know it. 

nike - social currency article

2. Lululemon

The athletic-wear company Lululemon has successfully created a tribe around their yoga clothing. Generally, if you rock up to any yoga class and you’re wearing a Lululemon top, you are seen as a true, holy grail of yoga, yogi. Feeling part of that downward-dog tribe, it’s likely you will post a photo on Instagram in the yoga top, most probably with the hashtags #Yogi and #FitFam. By sharing this on social media, customers are letting their friendship groups know what they like, and what they want to be associated with.

lululemon - social currency article

3. Slack

When we speak about social currency, it’s not always B2C. Slack is a B2B company that does a really good job of creating a community to build social currency. It’s fun and playful, and most importantly it makes messaging in the office feel like you are part of a big family by creating different channels that members can join, from departmental to extracurricular activities like a weekly running team or lunch-time football. Office workers build social currency for the brand every time they say “I will Slack you the information later on” without even realizing it. Check out their campaign showing an office using the Slack platform to unite together.

slack - social currency article

4. Peta

Sharing other people’s content is a really easy way of building social currency. Many brands create social media content that is inviting to share for this specific purpose. For example, Peta, the animal rights organization, make their Instagram posts easily shareable. People want to repost their content because they want their followers to know that they care about animal rights. It’s a clear example of people sharing things because they want to – “I’m recognizing how good this is, and I want you to see that”.

This becomes an endless cycle of social media sharing as both parties are earning valuable social currency. Plus, vegans are pretty cool.

dog and pig why eat one but not the other?

5. Netflix

Looking at the biggest online streaming company, Netflix, we can’t be surprised that they have built strong social currency over the years. For instance, take the infamous “Netflix and Chill” – this is a term used in everyday life by millions of people. Did Netflix create it themselves? No, because it was made organically. Netflix is a great example of effortless, social currency. Notably, the last time you probably spoke about a Netflix series you were binge-watching with your friends or sharing what you thought of a controversial season finale. Netflix Originals are discussed all over Twitter, there are dedicated podcasts to talk about their recent shows, and don’t get me started on Reddit. They are champions of customer engagement and harnessing clout. 

netflix - social currency article

So do yourself a favor and make your content shareable.

Get on board with social currency and you won’t regret it.

Turtl