Delivering social currency – the challenge for communications agencies

A dollar symbol
In: Content creation and social media, Publicity and PR, Community management

Brian Solis, the latest addition to Altimeter’s all-star social media analyst line-up, has got a new book coming out soon. And judging by the sneak preview presentation he gave to a group of Agency people recently, it’s going to be worth investing in.

He’s undoubtedly at the front of the pack when it comes to offering advice on social CRM, but crucially also has both feet firmly on the ground when it comes to what drives purchasing decisions amongst ‘social’ consumers: Quality of the product and reputation of the company.

As far as Solis is concerned, the traditional marketing funnel is pretty much dead. And companies which deliver products or create experiences around which consumers or fanboys can smile, learn, bond, demonstrate pride or simply feel like sharing for any other reason is a permanent fixture of the world we now inhabit.

We should therefore expect to see more examples like Ben and Jerry’s ‘live’ nutritional information facts, the Pepsi Brisk/Instagram personalized label, and the Amex/Foursquare tie-up which both premiered at SXSW.

These examples are not just content creation and social media fads. Because millennials rely on their mobile phones more than anything else, permanent access to live, real-time information for decision-making is here to stay – either in-store, in-hand, or even on-foot.

JC Penney let teens try on clothes in their virtual reality online shopping service.
Shopkick takes barcode-scanning pioneered by Red Laser and others to a whole new level by mixing up in-shop location, reward-badges and discounts across the USA.

Expect it in the UK soon.

And WeSC are toying with putting RFID tags in their shoes to link (seriously) an individual’s footwear to their (ahem) social footprint – so that, for example, if you like something you’re standing in front of in a shop – you can simply tap the nearby RFID reader with your shoes, and you will ‘like’ it in Facebook. Or, as soon as you walk in to a shop, an assistant will be served information on things you’ve previously ‘liked’ in Facebook to provide a more personalised shopping experience. And if you want to ‘check in’ somewhere, all you need to do is stand on the RFID reader.

Stella Artois are not alone in rewarding their most loyal/vocal fans with money-can’t-buy insights and experiences, hoping that they’ll be even more vocal about the brand as a result. Indeed, it’s something I’ve been doing with my clients for a while now.

All of these apps, products and ideas demonstrate the importance of giving easy access to “social currency” for both niche and mass-consumers.

Back in the TV-only age, we used to try and generate ‘watercooler conversations’ with our creative PR-stories.

Now the challenge facing every creative, and every agency, is to design and build experiences into products.

Because it’s these experiences, as well as the products, which generate social currency – the lifeblood of (online) conversations at the beginning of the 21st Century – the same way that printers’ ink was the lifeblood of mass communications at the beginning of the 20th.

Written by
Chris Reed
I set up Restless Communications in 2011 to create strategic and integrated campaigns for brands I believe in. Away from work I shout at Arsenal, listen to loud music, and walk my dog.
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