Digital Social Media

The 5 types of social currency by @stevesponder


The social web has created a hyper-word-of-mouth platform that has tipped the balance of power away from brands. As a result, brands are now beginning to realise that engagement is the new communications. In order for a brand to achieve engagement with its stakeholders, it needs to consider the value that their content will deliver, or to frame it from the recipients perspective – what’s in it for me.
If the content has high value then not only will the recipient be more likely to engage with it, but they will be more likely to engage in conversation with the brand, compelling them to pass-along the content to their friends because it has social currency.
I have identified 5 core types of social currency value; Useful, Entertainment, Monetary, Information and Personal.

Before giving some explanation and examples for each area, it is worth pointing out that they are all channel agnostic, so for example ‘events’ are particularly suited for entertainment. In fact, an event like Barcardi’s B-Live can in itself provide a rich stream of social currency for the digital channel e.g. twitter announcements, flickr photostreams and YouTube channels.
1) Useful value is more commonly referred to as brand utilities, so although Nike+ is held up as the ‘daddy’ of brand utilities, there are also a huge numbers of mobile apps that would qualify for this category.
2) Entertainment value is more commonly referred to as branded entertainment and it’s interesting to note that typically this is the approach that an ad campaign concept would take. The ultimate proof of social currency is when your content is being remix ed and parodied, as happened with the Cadbury’s gorilla campaign.
3) Monetary value is the social equivalent of the conventional sales promotion or PR activity. So it could be a simple voucher like the infamous Threshers’ discount voucher or a competition run in conjunction with an influential blogger.
4) Information value, in the form of knowledge and thought leadership, can be produced in various formats e.g. video interviews, slideshare presentations and blog posts (like this one ;). More superficial forms of information, like gossip and conspiracy, can also be adopted.
5) Personal value is a particularly interesting currency, as it often provides social currency that is extremely compelling. The global success of reality TV shows, such as Big Brother, and the talent shows such as Pop Idol and X-Factor demonstrate the importance of fame.
As the above Venn diagram suggests, there are opportunities to blend various currencies together and if done correctly, produce in a more potent piece of currency. An example of this would be a game (entertainment) which has a leaderboard (fame).
It is possible to capitalise on social currency that has already gained momentum by adopting the concept in your campaign – maybe we should call this meme-riding? T-mobile did this very successfully when they rode the flash-mobbing meme with their ‘Dance’ campaign.
Key to successfully producing high-value social currency is setting out with the right mind-set at the planning stage and get the right multi-disciplined team together to work on the social currency idea.

Brilliant venn diagram and equally great write up by Steve Sponder.

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