By Daniel Kehrer
In a world where social media marketing gains power by the minute, earning “social currency” for your local business is critical to success. In short, social currency is what your business earns when customers and prospects share information about you via social media. That might be a recommendation, review, blog post, tweet, photo, video or just a thought.
Whatever it is helps put your name and your “brand” (got one?) in front of potential buyers. The point is that they are sharing something about you, and that’s (almost) like money in the bank. It helps you develop a unique identity for your business, yourself or your brand and creates more opportunities to interact with customers and prospects and develop the all-important relationships that lead to repeat customers and referrals.
Earning social currency for your business is one of the most important value-building marketing moves you can make today. And it doesn’t have to cost you money.
Vivaldi Partners, a large brand management and consulting company, recently conducted a study to identify how the most successful businesses are building social currency. The study identified six crucial factors that determine social media currency-building success – the “Social Six:”
Factor #1: Affiliation: What your business does in social media helps people feel like they are part of a community of some kind.
Factor #2: Ideas: You provide valuable information that people can share with others.
Factor #3: Utility: Your social media initiatives help people get more value from what you offer.
Factor #4: Conversation: Your approach gets people talking about your business or brand.
Factor #5: Identity: Your efforts help people express part of themselves to others through whatever products, services or brands you offer.
Factor #6: Advocacy: You motivate customers and prospects to speak positively about your business and recommend it to others.
The more of the “social six” you accomplish, the more social currency you earn to drive and grow your business. To earn it, you may find yourself interacting with customers in new ways. For example, granting customers access to special information or inside knowledge is a powerful way to connect. And once you do, you’ve essentially gained permission to interact further with those customers or prospects.
Remember that earning social currency is not an end in itself – you can’t use it to make a payroll. But it’s currency that will buy you more customers and loyalty.
To start earning social currency, develop a social currency strategy for your specific type of business. Consider which of the “social six” might work best for your type of customers. For example, a fitness club might concentrate on providing valuable fitness tips that people can share, while an auto dealer might share photos and videos of new models.
It’s usually not one single factor that earns a business social currency, but a combination of factors in both the online and offline worlds. Vivaldi’s research findings make another crucial point: Social currency can be managed. Don’t buy into the trendy notion that customers are totally in charge. The facts show that people embrace businesses that help them solve the problems and challenges of daily life. That’s where you want to be. What customers want is for you to provide meaningful solutions to those needs, and using social media to demonstrate your ability to do that is a fantastic way to earn social currency.
Look for ways to use social media to specifically drive value for your customers, including ways to save money. If you can rally around a single vision and concentrate your efforts there, so much the better. Then replicate that vision in different social media settings, such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. But choose carefully, since your choices need to be the social networks where your customers tend to congregate, not necessarily where you like to go yourself.
Have a question about social media? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!