Social Media Top Tip: Social Currency - Event Marketer

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Social Media Top Tip: Social Currency

In this monthly series, EM brings you tips and tricks from pros and experts who eat social media marketing for breakfast. So eat up, and check us out on Twitter @eventmarketer and Facebook.com/eventmarketer for more.

The definition of “social currency” has taken an interesting turn lately as brands have started to roll out campaigns that invite consumers to “pay” for everything from product samples to meals and other services with a tweet or a social post. In May, British frozen food company Birds Eye opened a pop-up restaurant in London called The Picture House. There, diners could have a meal from the brand’s product line and all they had to do to pay was post a photo of their meal on Instagram with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations.

The restaurant opened in the Soho neighborhood and moved to Manchester and Leeds in June and July, where it replicated the experience. Folks who were interested even got tutorials from food photographer and Instagrammer Marie Marte on how to take a great food photo. It was all part of the brand’s campaign to change perceptions of frozen foods.

Using social currency in this way has many in the industry excited to see where this pay-for-play use of social activity might take their brands in terms of word-of-mouth value and influencer impact. Others worry that social currency generates empty numbers from consumers who just want a freebie, but nothing more. We asked Morgan Fitzsimons, senior account director at New York City-based agency We Are Social to give us the goods on using social currency as “real” currency at events. Read on for her top five tips for making your most influential fans ante up to play with your brand.

birdseye_socialtip_20141. Be bold… but generous. Fitzsimons says brands have to be brave. You have to be willing to ask for something in exchange for the experience you’re serving up, but the other side of the social coin is that you have to serve up something that’s really solid. Because you can ask for a tweet or a Facebook post, but you have to earn the positive impression the social post represents. 

2. Be aggressive. You can really have fun with this, if your brand is feeling its oats a bit. A brand might target a competitor by asking invited guests to try its product against its competitors (Pepsi challenge-style) and keep the one they like better—all in exchange for a review video on YouTube. Just be sure of yourself and make the overall experience and payoff worth the price of entry. 

3. Price accordingly. Make sure what you ask them to do is worth what you’re giving them in terms of experience, premium or sample. If all you want is a hashtagged tweet, maybe some branded swag is enough (if a bit lazy). But if you want a video or blog post, you better blow them away with a bucket list-caliber experience. 

4. Be specific. Think about your goal for the program, and choose one platform to activate on. Trying to be cross-platform will be too broad to measure or track effectively. Worse, it’ll be too general an ask. Like any call to action, this has to be specific. If you want a photo from your guests, ask them to put it on Instagram or Facebook. If you want a video, go with YouTube or Vine. You get the idea. In the same vein, be specific about the medium, too. Don’t just ask for a post, ask for a photo if that’s what you want. Folks like clear instructions. And make your experience amenable to the medium you’ve chosen.

5. Brace yourself. Look, like with any strategy that gives the consumer her own voice to talk about your brand, there is a danger of blowback. It might happen, but you can mitigate the risk with innovative experiences and open conversation. If someone tweets that you suck, get in there and engage when it makes sense and ignore it when it’s a simple case of trolling.

This story appeared in the August 2014 issue

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