What Is Social Currency and How Can It Help Your Business?

As business owners and marketers, we all want our products, services and ideas to catch on and spread like crazy.

In his book Contagious, Jonah Berger explores this idea, about what makes something contagious enough that it is extensively shared.

In a world where social media has opened the floodgates of content distribution, how can you make sure your business stands out and is worthy of going viral?

Jonah outlines an acronym that outlines a simple framework for the ideas covered in his book – STEPPS: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value and Stories.

In this post, I’ll be explaining the idea around social currency and how I found it beneficial.

Social Currency

When we all think of currency, our first thought is money. What is money exactly? It’s a medium of exchange we use to demonstrate the monetary value of different things.

In this sense then, social currency is the status we gain and the value we build by engaging in social interactions and sharing with others.

Berger explains how sharing is part of human nature and helps us establish our identities to ourselves and others. Leveraging social currency can help us better understand word-of-mouth and why people share with their own communities of friends.

What’s the best way to do this? “Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting your products and ideas”, says Berger. There are 3 key ways to do this, as follows.

1. Find Inner Remarkability

“Create your Purple Cow,” as Seth Godin would say. People love sharing things that are ultimately remarkable and have some grand aspect to it.

Jump onto Facebook and have a look at which videos everyone seems to be sharing. There always seems to be some quirky, out of the ordinary element to the video.

We know normal, but when something starts to be totally unusual, that’s when it really captures attention and stands out to people. They’re also usually great talking points that get people discussing it.

2. Leverage Game Mechanics

People like knowing how their performance is in relation to others. By creating a form of Game Mechanics, where customers can gain status by sharing or using your brand, it makes them look good to others.

Something recently that really stood out here in Australia, using this concept, was the Little Shop Mini’s from Coles.

If you don’t know about these, Coles, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains released mini collectables for different brand name products. Customers would receive one for every time they spent over $30 in the store.

Let’s just say, some people went crazy with this.

You see, Coles had implemented game mechanics into their brand, making customers want to beat their friends, family and even strangers, on who could collect the most mini products.

3. Make People Feel Like Insiders

We all like to feel like we’re part of an exclusive group. It’s why people love to tell you how they were the first to listen to a music artist before they became massively successful. By creating scarcity around your offers, you are making it more desirable to own. As a result, people will fight to be a part of the exclusive group that has your product.

Think about how people work tirelessly to purchase something, from the likes of Louis Vuitton or their first Lamborghini.

Not everyone can afford these products, and with that brings status and makes people who buy these products feel like they’re part of an exclusive group.

Another great book on this subject is Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, we share things that help us express our identities to the people around us. Our jobs as marketers and business owners are to help our customers look good, when promoting our brand.

Next time, ask yourself these questions before posting your content. Would my audience find this post remarkable? Is it helping them build their status? Will my customer feel like an insider, for knowing about what I’m posting?

Although not every piece of content may fit these questions, they may just help us get to that one piece that becomes contagious.