Social Currency Metric from Jonah Berger’s Contagious Explained

Crif Dogs Social Currency via ExclusivityThe Social Currency Metric

There is a hot dog restaurant in New York that bills itself as exclusive. Social currency is about making yourself look bigger and better than you already are. One of the channels most used for self-enhancing social currency is Facebook. Bryan Shippard’s Hot Dog biz Crif Dogs was not really doing well until he came up with a killer idea and rebranded as Please Don’t Tell. He built a secret room where only people who book in advance are able to come in to have a pint and a hot dog. The actual food isn’t particularly special but the experience is what matters. The secret bar/ special secret spot that is defined as anti-marketing. Bryan Shippard created a Discovery Brand where people would share their story about the hot dog bar because it makes them feel good.  In kindergarten there was Show and Tell, share thoughts and opinion. Our brains are built to find this kind of activity rewarding. We are also driven to prove to others that we are having a better time then the general pool of people.

 Social Currency EmpowermentPeople Want To Feel Empowered

In an experiment by Tamir and Mitchel, showed that people were willing to make a 25% pay cut to share an idea that made themselves feel good. People would take a pay cut to share something different rather than get paid more to do something menial and boring. Human beings don’t brag about failure for the same reason. Human being just want to feel good about what they are doing. It’s the reason that a code blue is always under played at hospital and a code pink is always over played (code pink = new baby) and code blue = heart attack.

Contagious Marketing Social CurrencyThe Wow Factor

Snapple had a marketing problem. So their marketing director Rubenstein re-launched the Snapple bottle cap silly facts but this time to relay real facts that were remarkable. Facts like “the average person spends 2 weeks of their total life span waiting at traffic lights.” Naturally people love extraordinary stories and telling those stories is what gives us a special sort of high. In fact, the way we remember stories actually evolves overtime and the memories tend to shift towards the remarkable both bad and good.

Gamification of Everything Social CurrencyGame Mechanics of Social Currency

The gamification of airlines loyalty plans has a prestigious history at American airlines. With Golden then Platinum card holders. The idea is that the perks aren’t that amazing but the social currency of being such a person is impressive. Customers like to feel exclusive or of a higher value than other people. There are loads of companies trying to cash in on this ridiculous gamification of all human activities.

Contagious criticism Ironic social criticismCriticism | Commercial Social Currency Is Rarely Successful

If social currency functions as Berger explains, why don’t companies try giving people who post about their premium products on Facebook a 10% discount for sharing? The problem is Social Currency works mostly for non-commercial items. When Facebook notified users on newsfeeds that a friend had bought something on, users saw this is a violation of privacy. Users also saw it is a crass marketing ploy which is the core problem with the Social Currency metric. People do not want to seen as pushers of products on behalf of companies. Of course, we can say that if the brand is secondary to the content then that works but creating content that ties the brand into a good shareable piece of content is VERY tough. The product is more socially shareable if there is a premium item like a BMW or a Rolex watch for someone to proudly endorse. Free advertising via social media is not easy to achieve / extremely low success rate for sharing. You don’t have to declare you got some additional benefit from the post, after-all, even if you did it may not prevent others from sharing…. Why this kind of social currency doesn’t take off is that brands don’t trust social and users don’t want to be pushers. The brand has to be along for the ride and not at the forefront. Facebook can’t profit from this form of endorsement which partly explains why Facebook newsfeeds are shrinking in their reach anyway and brands don’t want to lower themselves by giving customers extra incentives to share. What happens when social currency and marketing align? These aren’t questions that are answered in Contagious. Instead Berger talks about extremely rare content marketing on social that is hard to replicate.

Contagious criticism Ironic social criticismCriticism | Exclusivity As Non-Viral

Berger seems to lump exclusivity into this Social Currency metric as if it makes perfect sense. It doesn’t. Private clubs, elite universities, exclusive buyer clubs, Judaism, Costco / Sam’s Club and the Free Masons all tap into something related to social currency but it’s not shareable, it’s secret or exclusive. The power of the thing lies in it being exclusive but that doesn’t make it viral. If you want to sell someone something, tell them that they have access to an exclusive club that only a handful of people have access to. Tell them that they are special and they will likely act in a way that makes them more productive and happier. It doesn’t matter if that product is any good, but it matters that you have access where others do not. Social currency on Facebook comes from posting pictures from amazing locales so incentivising User Generated Content might be useful for content marketing in the hotel industry for example BUT for the most part once someone you know posts a funny article you are unlikely to post it again yourself and you no longer have exclusivity on Facebook so in reality EXCLUSIVITY can be anti-viral…

Contagious Content Is Viral Jonah BergerThis is part of a synopsis of Jonah Berger’s Contagious complete with analysis and criticism.