Social Media Currency: The money that can’t buy you Love.


I recently read an article in Brand Republic entitled “Social Media Currency – the new cash in your pocket” suggesting that brands can build and alter their brand perception in a matter of days, or even hours by harnessing the power of social media as a form of currency.

As a marketer I get that the idea of offering consumers an incentive to Tweet nice things about your brand is a very seductive as we’ve become obsessed with linking Social Media investment to product sales.

Kellogg’s #Tweetshop, Topshop’s #TrickorTweet and AMEX’s partnership with Foursquare are all great examples of how brands can leverage Social Media for the purposes of driving trial or launching new products – but they are unlikely to shift peoples perceptions long term.

Advocacy isn’t something you can simply buy. 


Facebook Graph is just the latest example of just how influential peer-to-peer endorsement has become – it’s for many of us the way we now make the choices between the brands we buy and the services we use.

It therefore makes perfect sense to me to have a long-term strategy built around building genuine social advocacy – after all people should want to say nice things about your brand without expecting some immediate reward.

Since its inception in 1987 Red Bull has built a €4.3B global business around word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing and an ethos of bringing the people to the product – not the product to the people.

Red Bull

By systematically investing in Sports and Culture and tapping into specific communities it’s been able to build credibility and brand advocacy from within.

The success of this activity for Red Bull is measured in terms of the new consumers they are able to attract and not the number of cans they’re able to sell.

Proof of principal, if it was needed, came in October 2012 when over 3M Tweets, 10k Comments, 30k Facebook Shares and 220k Likes followed Felix as he plummeted 39km towards the Earth.

Playing The Modern Marketing Game

Unfortunately there are still too many Marketing Directors and CMO’s who see Social Media as just another opportunity to sell more products to more people.

Modern Game

A survey as recently as last week said that whilst 90% of adults use social media regularly only 22% of businesses have a dedicated social media manager – suggesting that many businesses still see Social Media as a one-way street.

The same survey also said that the average company only responds to 1 in every 3 fans comments on Facebook – which perhaps explains why less than 0.5% of Facebook fans engage with brands that they are fans of.

All the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen points to consumers wanting more than ever to engage with brands – the only difference being they want to do it on their terms and when it suits them.

Connection vs. Communication thinking

The brands that are engaging successfully with their consumers have made the switch from a Communication to a Connection mindset. They all understand that to connect with their consumers their marketing ideas need to be HIGH PITCH™


Their simple rule of thumb is: if you find that your consumers don’t want to talk about you, without you having to reward them every time they do, then it’s probably because your ideas don’t have PITCH™.

In this way it’s clear that Red Bull Stratos had PITCH™ and Kellogg’s TweetShop did not.

If Brand Republic are right and Social Media is a form of currency the real question business leaders and marketers should be asking is how should I use it….

Like a fast buck that I give away cheaply for another Facebook Like or a nice Tweet… Or like a nest egg that I invest in, to build credibility and advocacy for my brand over time?

I’m sure the temptation will be the former but as Frank Leahy said: There are no shortcuts in life only those we imagine.