The Principles of Contagious Content: Social Currency.

Why do some things catch on and what makes some content more contagious? Is it down to luck or is some content just more viral worthy? Hundreds of research hours have been dedicated to solving this mystery and the findings show that there are six key principles to creating contagious content. Lets have a look at the first principle – Social Currency.

What is Social Currency?

What we talk about influences peoples opinions of us, most people would rather look interesting than boring, rich than poor and cutting edge than out of touch – this is social currency. Knowing about the latest products or ‘secret’ places gives the impression that a person is in the know.

Creating content that helps people to achieve these desired impressions will increase the virality of the content and get people talking about your brand.

Why We Share

It is wired in us to share our experiences with friends, family and colleagues – think about when you last bought something new or achieved something great, what was the first thing you did? Tell someone either in person, on the phone or via social media. It’s a basic human need.

The rise of social media has given us the perfect platforms to share to wider audiences whether it be what we had for dinner, a new job or a great product we just bought – word of mouth advertising.

Word of Mouth Marketing

With 90% of consumers trusting peers recommendations compared to 14% trusting advertisements, word of mouth marketing is a key marketing tool and goes hand in hand with content and social media marketing.

Just as people use money to make purchases they use social currency to achieve positive impressions of themselves within their social circles. To get people talking about your brand and sharing your content you need to give them the ability to make themselves look good while promoting your products at the same time.

Find Remarkability

By remarkability I mean content that provides information that is surprising and worthy of talking about, association with this content it makes the sharer appear more remarkable. For example a surprising fact that goes against everything we think we know. Blendtec found the inner remarkability with their ‘Will it Blend’ campaign.

They took an otherwise boring, ordinary everyday product and made it interesting. They put their blender to the test (proving durability and performance of the product) to blend items such as iPhones, a garden hose and even a skeleton! The campaign went viral leading to increased brand awareness and sales.

Remarkable things are social currency because they make people who talk about them seem more remarkable. We all want to be liked and accepted by our peers it a fundamental human motivation and one of the reasons social media has become so popular

Game Mechanics

The best example of game mechanics are loyalty cards – the more you spend the more you are rewarded, take air miles for example the more you accumulate the more perks and upgrades you receive, instantly telling your peers that you are a frequent flier (and likely to be doing well for yourself).

Being upgraded on a flight provides bragging rights to the flier so when they tweet or post that they have been upgraded to first class with a certain airline they are self promoting and also promoting the airline – word of mouth advertising.

In the Know

Scarcity creates demand, think of limited editions or members only shopping sites. Products that are available to a select few or for a limited time make people want them even more. Scarcity and exclusivity boost word of mouth by making people feel like they are in the know.

If a person has access to something not everyone has it makes them feel special, unique and of a higher status and the first thing they will do is tell their friends, family and colleagues about it and once they are in the know they will want it too.

Social currency is just one of the key principles of contagious content, adopting the practice of providing your consumers with social currency is one step to making your content more contagious.


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