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We look at the increasing trend for brands to use social media as currency and the value it can bring.

All marketers will understand the challenge in finding your brand’s advocates on social media. In an industry where 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends, and only 10% trust advertising, it’s a smart move to encourage your advocates to share posts on social media about your brand or products.  A recent shift in the industry sees brands using social media as currency to reward consumers for their engagement. 

The concept is not entirely new, and it was back in 2012, that Special K was one of the first brands to trial the use of social media as currency to launch a new range of snacks.  A Special K pop-up shop was created in Soho, London and users tweeted #tweetshop to receive free snacks.  Sarah Case, Brand Manager for Special K, said the decision to swap real money for "social currency" in the campaign was made because "the value of positive endorsements on social media sites is beyond compare".  And it seems that now in 2014, more and more brands are beginning to understand the value of this unique approach. 

Most recently, last month, Marc Jacobs hit the headlines in New York Fashion Week with their pop-up tweet shop, where unlike most high-end New York boutiques, the objective was not to get to your wallet. Instead, customers ‘paid’ for samples, jewellery and even designer handbags with posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #MJDaisyChain.  The campaign results show that there were more than 13,500 Twitter mentions and 4,300 Instagram mentions.  The brand also says the campaign yielded more than 770,000 Facebook Likes.  Not bad for a 3 day event!

The team here at Knit recently ran a similar launch campaign for Vype. For the brand’s official launch activity, a dedicated pop-up venue was created in Shoreditch, London, and ran for 3 weeks during November 2013.  As part of the campaign, Knit created a Twitter activated vending machine for the venue.  Knit’s unique approach takes the concept of social currency one step further, as it negates the employment of a promotions person to monitor the social media activity.  Knit’s solution is fully automated and the vending machine vends a free sample to users who tweet #freeVYPEsample. A direct message with a unique code is then sent to the user’s Twitter account to validate their tweet, and then they simply enter their code on the vending machine keypad to vend their free sample.   

Another brand, Vitacoco, a Coconut water drinks brand, is currently using social media as currency for free sampling activity.  The brand rewards users by giving them the option to ‘gift’ a friend a free drinks voucher.  The friend will then in turn ‘gift’ a voucher back encouraging social sharing and increasing the reach of each post. 

It’s clear that the power of social media is still largely untapped and there is a lot more that brands could be doing in order to encourage online engagement and gain brand advocacy. Using social media as currency is just another way to engage with your audience and reward brand advocates for their loyalty.  For more advice on how to use social media to increase engagement with your brand, get in touch with us.

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