What is Social Currency? Nike Air Max's and Paris Hilton

Social Currency is a really important term that all marketers should be aware of.
Image via Age
Social Currency are the objects that makes us valuable to our friends.
Here are two examples of how brands have created social currency for their consumers.

Intangible Source: Who Weekly

Brands can act as sources of information that people can then use as social currency with their friends.
E.g Sharon reads Who Weekly
Sharon: Did you hear about Paris Hiltons new video that she was in?
Diane: No, please fill me in!
The information about Paris acts as social currency. As it is a piece of information that is valued by Diane.

Tangible Source – Nike Shoes

Anyone that knows me probably knows that I love Nike Air Max's. If I see you also wearing Air Max’s I will probably hold you in high esteem because they are seen as valuable object in my world. The Nike Air Max’s are acting as social currency.

Next week, I will be showing how brands can create social currency in the social media space.

7 comments:

Angus said...

I've just stumbled across your blog and am greatly enjoying it but must point out that I find the phrase 'social currency' to be the most overused piece of marketing jargon. Perhaps because it's often misused or perhaps because it's even more often overused as a wank shortcut to signify something insightful - I wish to god people would use it more sparingly and impressively.

Julian Cole said...

Hey Angus,

great to hear that you like the blog :)

In terms of Social Currency, I agree it is a shortcut. But isn’t that what all terminology is? Terminology is used so that you don’t have to explain something for 10 minutes. As long as the person you are talking to understand what the meaning of the word is too, then I think there is a real need for terminology. Especially if I am going to refer to it again on my blog.

However if someone is using the word and they know the other person does not know the meaning of the word and trying to WOW them, then yes I think it is a wank term.

Also Social Currency is not a Marketing term originally, it was actually coined by Academic Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and is very relevant to marketing and social media marketing.

Angus said...

I have nothing against terminology Julian.

What I'm tired of is seeing presentations to clients that talk about X being the new social currency when it either doesn't make sense or is irrelevant. Too many people try and stuff it into their decks. For me it's an integral part of Marketing Bingo regardless of where it stemmed from :)

Julian Cole said...

Angus, I take your point some people are bastardizing the term. But isn’t it our job to call these people out and put them on the spot? I think if I define it here and then someone tries to pull it over one of my reader’s, atleast they can then call them.

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