What’s your social currency?

Photo credit: BaronBrian

97 Million  people use Twitter.
640 Million on Facebook.
48.2 Million users on YouTube.

Ever ask yourself why they are there? Hold on. Before you answer – let me give you a hint: its a trick question.  Stop thinking like a marketer/business owner/blogger- extraordinare for a moment, and pause. Here’s the answer. The reason millions of people use these platforms is because they want to engage with PEOPLE.

Now hear this:  No one ever joined Facebook or Twitter so they could follow a brand or a company.  Now, adults (who make up the largest segment of social media users) accept brand presence as part of the social media experience, but here’s some bad news: According to a recent study by Forrester Research, just 6 percent of 12-17-year-olds who use the Web desire to be friends with a brand on Facebook. Yet, according to HubSpot, brands who connect via the social sphere see a direct impact on sales.

So – better get ahead of it and start developing your social media currency now. Now, you KNOW I am not suggesting that brands stay out of the social sphere, that is just not my style or honestly, my business. What I AM suggesting is that you brands and companies give serious consideration to what they have to OFFER the community and what motivates their community to be part of social media at all. Its all about “What’s in it for them”. Your currency is your social media VALUE. What do you have to offer? What you give your community, otherwise, seriously, why should they care?  So, here are a couple of steps to identifying your social media currency.

Where are your customers and why are they there? Its easy to say “I want a Facebook page” or “I’m opening a company Twitter account”, but is that really where you should start? Shouldn’t you begin by asking where your clients are? Maybe your clients are creative and visual so they like YouTube or Flickr better. When people start with the tools I just want to take a book out of my Kindergarten lessons, shove my fingers in my ear and start saying “Nah Nah Nah…I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” because unless you start by asking what social media tools your customers use and WHY they are there, that’s same response you’ll get from the community. Once you know where your customers are and WHY they are there, then you can start developing your tools.

What do you have to offer? Now, we get to the nitty gritty. What makes your company interesting to them? This is all about content.  Lots of businesses think that the only thing interesting to their “fans” are discounts or promotions. Wrong. That’s like saying the first time you meet someone you should buy them a bottle of wine. Friendships, real friendships don’t start at the wallet and neither do truly engaged fan-business relationships. People like to get to know a company, learn what’s important to the company, its helps the person get to know the company and feel more closely aligned with the company. Different established communities like different things, which is why activity on one social media portal might be different than activity on the other, by both people and companies. If you aren’t sure where to start, there is a great tool on Forrester Research designed by the Groundswell (affliate link)  folks that helps define your audience and how they typically interact. Granted, its a general tool, if for example, your audience are a specific subset, say Mom’s, you might know some other things about your audience and how they like to interact, but this is still a great place to start.While this information is not new, its still relevant, so go ahead and check it out.

How will customers interact with you? Now, if you used the Social Technographics tool from Groundswell, you’ve likely discovered that different people typically interact differently. It might frustrate you to know that LOTS of people are lurkers. People who like results don’t like digital lurkers, because they can’t be tracked. Here’s the rub – lots of people are lurkers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value to you. Think about it – when you go to a Facebook page or a blog, do you always comment? Probably not. I know I have a LOT of lurkers on my site. I also know THEY ARE WATCHING. Lurkers turn the tables a bit on marketers. They key is to create opportunities for those non lurkers to participate and maybe, just maybe, you’ll drag some of your lurkers out from the shadows. Its also important to note that if you don’t attempt to engage your audience, why would they ever interact with you? If all you do is push content, then that’s a pretty one-sided relationship don’t you think? Well, even if YOU don’t think so – your customers do.

By the way – I love the $2 bill as an example of social media currency. Think about it. People who have $2 bills know they are special. $2 bills are remarkable and interesting and people like to show them to their friends.  Shouldn’t YOUR currency strive to be all those things?

That’s it. That’s all you have to do to begin your social currency valuation.

After you check out the Social Technographics tool – I’d love to hear what you learned and what surprised you.