What Makes Things Go Viral: Social Currency
This blog post will introduce you to the term ‘social currency‘. By the end you’ll understand what it is and how to use it effectively.
It’s helped us show people what Stone Create do and has increased the amount of people we engage with online.
Let’s get started…
- What is social currency? (including social currency definition)
- Inner remarkability
- Leverage game mechanics
- Make people feel like insiders
With the world being more connected than it ever has been, your social currency is a vital factor you need to consider when marketing your business.
Imagine if you had a formula for how to make content go viral. A way of knowing that a piece of content or information would be shared by the millions before you’d even produced it. You’d be invaluable.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
Although a strict formula doesn’t exist, there are obvious trends with each post that is shared by the millions.
Jonah Berger’s Contagious looks deep into the heart of virality and why things suddenly ‘blow up’. He breaks it down into six categories:
- Social currency
- Practical value
This blog will focus on just social currency, what it is and ways to use it.
We’ll be covering the other five categories in subsequent blogs so keep an eye out for them.
What is Social Currency?
Social currency definition:
Social currency is your level of online influence and is a concept formed from social capital theory.
It’s how we measure our reputation based on the content we release both on and offline to social networks and how often people share our content.
The higher our perceived social currency, the higher our sense of community and status tend to be.
It is often referred to when discussing online activities and our influence on the internet.
Brands should always consider their social currency as building it is a way to create value for themselves as well as their customers.
It’s a powerful tool and using it to your advantage is a wise move.
As humans, we’re sharers – it’s part of why we enjoy using social media so much. When we post to social media we’re showing the people online our likes, dislikes, opinions, our work etc.
And we share some of this information because it makes us look good.
We want to be seen as interesting and intelligent by others and so we share things that’ll exude this. People rarely share their failures.
Marketers need to use social currency to increase positive word-of-mouth. When promoting, businesses need to give those receiving their message a positive impression of the brand. Jonah Berger states that there are three ways to do this:
- Inner remarkability
- Leverage game mechanics
- Make people feel like insiders
Using each one gives you an edge over your competitors as they’re reasons for people to interact with you and consistently revisit your business.
Remarkable things break the mould. They surpass the expected level of greatness and can even introduce whole new ways of thinking.
Being knowledgeable about remarkable things will make you appear more interesting and so sharing information about remarkable things is a way of increasing your social currency.
If you were to go on Twitter or Facebook now, you’ll likely see evidence of inner remarkability within seconds.
BlendTec managed to use inner remarkability to their advantage with their marketing campaign, ‘Will It Blend?’.
For inspiration on how to make your content go viral, click on the video below…
One way that you can increase your social currency is by making your own product/service as incredible as it can be.
Make it look fantastic and offer an amazingly high level of value to your customer. Make it that good that they feel they have to share it.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why is my product so good?
- What do we do that our competitors don’t?
- How does our product stand out?
People share things that are amazing. By doing or being remarkable you’ll give other people reasons to share your work and by building their social currency, they’re building yours too.
Leverage Game Mechanics
Game mechanics are tactics that give your customers the opportunity to achieve something. It often brings an element of fun and perks that go with it.
Examples include a points or currency system for customers; each time they purchase they increase their number of points. Customers are more likely to return as they want to accrue more points. It also adds a sense of competitiveness and status.
Here are some ideas/example you might want to try out:
Evidence your customers accomplishments with online badges attributed to their account when they complete certain actions.
Make the badges visible to them as soon as they log on and visible to other members too.
Let your customers accumulate points according to what/how they purchase with you.
Bigger purchases may accrue more points, for example.
Supermarkets are great at doing this – companies including Sainbury’s, Esso and eBay allow you to accumulate Nectar points.
The more you spend in store, the more points you amass.
The more points you amass, the greater the reward when you come to redeem them.
Move your regular customers up levels each time they evidence their loyalty to your brand.
Add to this initiative by giving customers the opportunity to unlock different, more desirable features when they move up a level – more on this in the third section.
Similar to badges, show customers the level they’re at each time they interact with you.
Airlines are renowned for this. By continuously purchasing flights with one airline and building up your air-miles will give you chances to upgrade every time you fly.
Watch this video to see how American Airlines use game mechanics to promote flying on their airline.
Filmmaker Casey Neistat flies a lot but because of American Airlines’ loyalty programme he flies with them as often as he can.
He’ll go out of his way to fly with AA over other airlines so he can build up his miles and receive the obvious perks that come with sitting in first or business class over economy.
Game mechanics ensure your customers are able to see where they stand with your company. A better score on your ‘game’ will give them a higher status and they’ll enjoy this.
People also like to compare how they are doing compared to others; friends, family, etc. This means that they may share their total online when they reach a high number of points – improving your social currency.
All of this builds your word of mouth.
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Make People Feel Like Insiders
Scarcity and exclusivity are not new marketing tactics. They’ve been around for a while and are used to make you purchase by instilling fear that you need to be urgent or you’ll miss out.
Using terms such as ‘limited availability’ or ‘order before today for XX% off’ can make us feel as though we need to act quickly.
Exclusivity ties in neatly with game mechanics. For example, the higher level a customer sits at the more features they have access to.
Your other customers can have these extra features if they want, but only if they do what is required to reach those heights – which often is purchasing more with you.
People who own a platinum American Airlines card have perks that are unique to them. Perks that we’d all like to have.
But because the rest of us haven’t been such loyal customers we don’t get them.
We’re more inclined to choose the same companies each time if we’re aware that we’ll get more for doing so.
Building your social currency is an effective way to increase your brand’s reach.
Give people reasons to shout about you for you and you’ll be on your way to a winner.
Make your customers feel valued and a part of your brand’s journey.
For more information on improving your social currency, fill out a contact form below.
Alternatively, send us a message on Facebook.
For help with your social media content we’ve provided a free content calendar template for you.