November 20, 2014 / Melissa Faudree

social currency

What makes certain content go viral? What qualities does it possess that make it contagious and insanely shareable on the web? The real question is, did the viral marketing strengthen the brand and drive sales to the business?

Viral marketing does not necessarily mean a business or brand will become instantly successful. Businesses seek to engage and influence others. One way to do that is using social currency. Any content that is published on social media intended to create a digital presence can be classified as social currency. How do you feel after posting information that no one has heard about yet? People feel good about themselves when they share something noteworthy or popular. It can actually make them look good socially by their peers and in turn affects social currency. So what is social currency?

What is Social Currency?

Social currency isn’t a new term. Vivaldi Partners Group coined the term Social Currency in 2010. The company defined social currency as “the degree to which customers share a brand or information about a brand with others.” Vivaldi Partners Group conducted a study with over 5,000 of their customers and found that social currency is not something companies create or control on their own. Based on that idea, they organized social currency into 6 core levers. These core levers are factors that build strong brands and connect with others. It is important to note that not all businesses/brands will access each level. It will depend on what type of industry, competition and brand.

6 Core Levers:

  • Utility: Engaging other people and brands
  • Information: Sharing and exchanging valuable information with people about brands
  • Conversation: Recognizes and discusses brands
  • Advocacy: Promote or defend a brand
  • Affiliation: Become a member of the brand’s community
  • Identity: Expressing one’s self, the brand and one’s relationship with others

Social currency is about the experiences and participation that is created around a brand. This helps create value. The term originated from the interaction between consumers and customers. It is not just a conversation about a brand. Online buzz about a brand does not necessarily mean customers are having meaningful conversations that will produce a profit for a brand. Social currency wants to make connections with others. Businesses are able to measure social currency by how many people the content reaches, the importance, and the people it seeks to influence.

Examples of Social Currency

American Express: American Express frequently has specials for cardholder members on Twitter when they tweet using special hashtags. Users that qualify will receive a message from @AmexOffers on Twitter. The offer is then added and available for members on their credit card. The company promotes customers to use their American Express card with Twitter. American-Express

Southwest Airlines: Rapid Reward members with Southwest Airlines can refer and invite friends to join the program with the possibility of receiving up to 2,000 bonus points. For each friend that signs up for the Rapid Reward Program using your referral code, you receive 500 bonus points. The benefits of joining don’t just stop with the member who wants the points. Those that enroll in the Rapid Rewards program receive up to 1,500 points among many additional features.

IKEA: Ikea’s Facebook page promotes a variety of specials, contests, or discounts. Currently they have a contest to win one of their themed holiday baskets. Contests are one way to help get customers involved. IKEA USA

Dunkin’ Donuts: Dunkin’ Donuts uses Twitter to promote contests. For example they have a football prediction contest that people can play every Monday night game. This gets people involved with the possibility to win a trip to Arizona, free coffee for a year, and Dunkin’ Donut gift cards. Dunkin’ Donuts reaches those advocates who have an interest in football and coffee.

What’s the next step?

So how can you make sure you are nurturing and managing social currency for your brand? Vivaldi Partners provides four steps to help manage social currency.

Steps for Building & Managing Social Currency:

  1. Understand the buyers’ ecosystem
  2. Determine the levers of social currency
  3. Define the social currency strategy
  4. Develop and execute social currency programs

It does not matter how large your following on social networks may be, it is about the communication and engagement with those followers. Do you have a strategy in place? Do they follow any one of the six core levers of social currency? The trick for marketers is creating innovative ways to engage in online conversations about their brand. Businesses that incorporate social currency can become more successful in the social and digital revolution.


Does your business have a social currency strategy?

To view Vivaldi’s report, please click here.