Social Proof is the New Brand Currency

The cardinal goal for all retailers is to sell products that will bring in revenue, and lots of it. However, some retailers have begun to shift their thinking away from just dollar signs and toward the value of a product beyond the price tag. Since the inception of social media, social marketers have had to battle steadfast CMOs to prove the intangible value of social media.  However, those days may soon be behind them as more retailers begin to not only accept, but embrace social media as a value-add in its own right.

One of the main appeals of social platforms is the opportunity to both share and discover products, trends and ideas. Social media has launched a conversation revolution in which consumers are compelled to use their now public voice to discuss anything and everything, including brand and product experiences, fueled even more-so by the growing use of smartphones. Almost every retailer across every vertical uses some form of social media to connect, engage and most importantly, encourage conversation; brands have started to realize that their most valuable marketing assets are existing customers themselves.  A 2012 Nielsen survey indicated that 92% of people globally trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family over any other form of advertising.  It’s only fitting then that brands are experimenting with ways to leverage social conversation and brand loyalists by offering incentives that encourage the continuation of social engagement and positive reviews.

When Marc Jacobs launched its pop-up shop at the start of New York Fashion Week in February, consumers were initially taken aback by the concept.  Money actually served no purpose in the temporary store, where the brand touted its Daisy fragrance. Photo booths stood in the places of cash registers and curious “shoppers” were encouraged to use #MJDaisyChain on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to walk out with a complimentary bottle of the brand’s popular fragrance. Ultimately, the 2 day stint garnered 13,500 twitter mentions and 4,300 Instagram mentions and 770,000 likes on Facebook. The novelty of the shop also placed the brand at the forefront of consumers’ minds and Marc Jacobs stole the fashion week spotlight among media outlets and fashion fans alike.

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While using social media as the only form of currency may be too drastic of an approach for some brands to digest, social media mentions can also be used to offer deals.  American Express’ Twitter Sync allows customers to attain deals by tweeting using specific hashtags provided by American Express. Amex cardholders can send out tweets, buy products as per usual and then once their tweets have been confirmed, American Express will credit their accounts. American Express is known for providing social deals on a regular basis, so why not gain social impressions during the process?

Additionally, some start-ups are considering social currency as a powerful PR tool. As any start-up founder will confess – funds are limited, and often the first budgets cuts are made in the marketing and PR departments. Social currency has the potential to establish both customer loyalty and powerful WOM possibilities as young brands strive to attain and retain audiences in the marketplace.   Store and community events, as proven by Marc Jacobs, provide a great opportunity for start-ups and small businesses to leverage social media for WOMM without breaking the budget; i.e. offering an exclusive store coupon in exchange for a store experience mention on a social platform.

It remains to be seen as to whether or not social currency is a fleeting trend, but initial experimentation has largely proved to be positive, because brand awareness and social validation by peers is worth every penny.  By creating opportunities for consumers to create and share social testimonials, brands are equipping consumers with the power to do the marketing for them and with the social credibility that direct marketing lacks.  Is social proof the new social currency for Marketers?

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