The concept of social currency is simple and straightforward. It refers to a brand’s “social strength” or intangible resources deriving out of social networking, either in the social media or off-the-net relationship management. The term emanates from Pierre Bourdieu’s work on social capital, which can be understood in a similar way when it comes to a different domain like branding.
Branding is about identity, or unique identity in particular. In a digital age like ours, social networking is blessed with blazing speed that could hardly be imagined in the past. Exchange of information, sharing of ideas and consumer engagement have become really handy these days. Sharing the right information, promotion and feedback help a brand create its online reputation that ultimately spills over to its offline image. The engagement to let people “keep talking” of our stories in social media and off-the-net further add to a brand’s social reputation or currency. The bigger the engagement and sharing, the richer a brand gets with its social currency. This goes in a cyclical fashion, leading to a catalytic effect of having more and more social currency and engagement. This is how something goes viral by leveraging on the strength of social currency.
However, the trickiest part of the game is to capitalize on the heaps of social currency and convert this into profits with sustainable engagement and loyalty. High level of social currency may not necessarily mean that a brand is harvesting the full benefit of it. For example, despite strong online presence, do you think all telecom companies have been able to successfully leverage their performance on “value-added-services”? Many of such services were experimental, or were discontinued later because of lack of interest on the part of the subscribers. It appears that brands need to get back to the basics of knowing customers before designing further engagement. At the end of the day, it is the customer experience that plays the critical role in creating or limiting a brand’s social currency.