Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

15 Examples Of Social Currency Successfully Used In Marketing

Professor Jonah Berger has spent a decade investigating what makes things go viral.

What he found were 6 principles of virality (STEPPS):

Contagious: Jonah Berger's 6 STEPPS to Viral Marketing
  1. Social Currency – We share to look good in front of others.
  2. Triggers – We share what’s at the top of our minds.
  3. Emotion – We share what we care about. [You are here!]
  4. Public – We imitate what we see people around us doing.
  5. Practical value – We share what has value to others.
  6. Stories – We share stories, not information.
In this series, we’ll provide real-life examples of brands that utilize these principles.

First off: Social Currency.

Why do we share cool photos, videos and witty jokes on social media?

Because it makes us look good.

Social currency is a concept based on social capital theory – a nuanced idea about how people behave in reciprocal ways in social networks.

We don’t share stories that are boring because people will just think we are boring.

Jonah Berger identified three ways we can make people want to share our brand to earn social currency amongst their peers.

A. Identify what’s remarkable about your brand
B. Utilize game mechanics
C. Make people feel like insiders

A. Identify what’s remarkable about your brand

When we come across something exciting/cool/funny/awesome, we can’t wait to share it with others.

Do you want to see a blender destroy some golf balls?

Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series provides entertainment value and showcases their blenders’ impressive abilities.

So even if your product is as seemingly unremarkable as a blender, don’t fret.

Ask yourself: What separates you from your competitors? What makes you unique?

Place that remarkable element front and centre, so people will feel more compelled to share it!

(NOTE: Incentivize your customers to share with their friends by using ReferralCandy!)

1. Bellroy – Shows you just how slim their wallets are

Bellroy takes pride in slimming your wallet.

The way they compare their wallets against conventional ones paints a very compelling picture of just how slim their wallets can be.

You’ll feel amazed, order one, and proceed to show it off to your friends!

2. Firebox – Novelty gifts + cool website + witty descriptions = share!

Novelty gifts are fun to look at and innately shareable.

Firebox’s beautiful website design and witty item descriptions make you even more likely to share it with your friends.

3. Dyer & Jenkins – Selling apparel, and promoting the explorer spirit as part of the whole package

Caution: images might cause Stendhal syndrome

The folks at Dyer & Jenkins have the explorer spirit baked into every aspect of their brand.

Their website and social media platforms are filled with beautiful photographs of mother nature at her finest.

Exploration guides are even included in their blog!

Bryce Canyon National Park, part of Dyer & Jenkins’ The Great 59 series

4. Hunter Boots – Provided boots for the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen

Hunter boots are famous for their long history, high-quality products, as well as having provided waterproof protection for British royalty.

5. Shop It To Me – Your free personalized sale shopping assistant

Shop It To Me takes the hassle out of searching for online deals for your favorite brands.

All you have to do is choose your favorite brands, indicate your measurements, and Shop It To Me will alert you when your favorite items are on discount!

All you need to do is have your credit card ready…

6. Trunk Club – Hand-picked clothes that suit your unique personality and needs

Trunk Club is perfect for those of us who hate shopping and aren’t the best at picking out clothes.

Real-life stylists at Trunk Club will personally select pieces that match your unique personal style.

The clothes are sent right to your door for free, and you only have to pay for what you like.

Another good thing about Trunk Club is you don’t have to pay every month; only when you need some new clothes.

B. Utilize game mechanics

What’s so appealing about games, and why should you include game mechanics in your brand?

Because they can motivate customers to remain engaged in certain actions for the sake of achievements.

Game mechanics such as scoring systems, levels, and leaderboards tell you how well they’re doing in relation to others.

This encourages a form of competitive spirit, and internally motivates us to be better than others – that’s social currency for you.

7. My Starbucks Rewards – Drink your way to a Gold Card!

Customers are given stars for every purchase using their Starbucks cards.

Starting from the Welcome level, they have to collect stars to upgrade to the Green and Gold levels.

Each level provides more benefits than the previous level.

This encourages customers to drink more so that they can gain more stars, unlock new levels and get more benefits.

8. Step2 – Leaderboards to encourage reviews and sharing

Children’s apparel retailer Step2 has a leaderboard system that displays customers has given the best reviews.

This rewards the customers who are currently leaving reviews and motivates those who haven’t started doing so.

9. Foursquare badges – Unlock badges for checking in; gotta collect them all!

Foursquare users can unlock badges through various aspects of the app, from checking in to four nights in a row to being a douchebag.

There’s even a website dedicated to listing the badges, and how to get them!

These badges are effective because they motivate users to keep using the app, and also help promote the brand as they show off to their peers.

10. My Life – Building up good habits with the help of stickers

Instead of awarding badges, My Life is a meditation app that rewards stickers to users who continually use their app.

It’s a good thing the app is helping me build up a healthy habit!

C. Make people feel like insiders

We learnt from Dr Cialdini that when things are scarce, people desire them much more.

Exclusivity works in the same way; only some people have access to it. That’s social currency.

Those people can’t wait to share it with others, and your brand instantly becomes more desirable.

However, building hype also increases their expectations, so make sure that your product is rock solid.

11. OnePlus phone  – Only the invited ones can buy it

OnePlus doesn’t sell their phones in stores; they’re only available through invites.

If you want to get your hands on one, you’ll have to find someone who has it.

They are confident that their phones will speak for themselves, and people will naturally recommend them to their peers.

12. Google Inbox – The exclusive inbox invite that someone paid $205 for

Developed by the Gmail team, Google Inbox was promoted as the smarter, more efficient Gmail.

Everyone wanted to try it out, but could only do so by asking Google for an invite.

I waited three weeks for my invite, and boy, was it worth the wait!

Apparently, someone couldn’t wait and bid for it on eBay for $205.

13. Crowdfunding – Exclusive perks for supporting groundbreaking trends

Crowdfunding sites (e.g. Kickstarter, Indiegogo) are where new ideas and products are introduced to the world.

Anyone can back these projects, many of which are trendsetters or technological breakthroughs.

Supporters of these projects receive exclusive perks for their efforts.

These often give us bragging rights to being a supporter of novel ideas.

14. 11K Club – Proof that exclusivity is indeed extremely persuasive

Would you sign up for something exclusive you have no idea about?

That was the question creators of the 11K Club wanted to find out.

Only 11,000 slots were available, and no one knows what the membership benefits were.

Still, more than 11,000 applications were submitted, purely on the premise of exclusivity.

This is perhaps one of the best proofs of how persuasive exclusivity can be.

15. Facebook – Generated hype by opening up to one school at a time

When Facebook started out, it was only available for Harvard students.

Within the first month, more than half of Harvard undergrads were Facebook users.

This helped the site build up a lot of hype since the other students had to wait till it was available for their school.

Make your customers feel special, so they’ll tell everyone about it.

Ask yourself: What will excite my customers? What will make them feel unique, or look awesome?

But make sure that your product can bring genuine value to your customer; not just hype without substance.

Learn more about the other 5 principles of contagious marketing:

  1. Social Currency – We share to look good in front of others. [You are here!]
  2. Triggers – We share what’s at the top of our minds.
  3. Emotion – We share what we care about.
  4. Public – We imitate what we see people around us doing.
  5. Practical value – We share what has value to others.
  6. Stories – We share stories, not information.

Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion eCommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior, social psychology, and handstands. He is also the lead calisthenics trainer at Weightless.

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