Why People Share Content: Social Currency

Why People Share Content: Social Currency 4 min read

In our previous article, we discussed 6 reasons why people share your content. As part of our six-part series, we’ll be discussing each of these reasons in greater detail. The first up: Social Currency.


Social Currency is the simple notion that people share content that makes them look good. This can range from anything about a discreet new restaurant they’ve found to the new Rolex they’ve purchased (that’d be nice, right?) to an interesting article on the effects of Global Warming. This need for self sharing, according to researcher Jonah Berger, is one of the reasons why social networks have become so popular over the past few years.


In a study conducted by Harvard neuroscientists Jason Mitchell and Diana Tamir, they found that people who disclosed information about themselves actually found it rewarding. Even when provided with monetary compensation to sit in silence for a few moments instead, people chose the option to self disclose. We’d rather talk about ourselves than be paid to sit in silence.


Brands who want to take advantage of this basic idea only need to do one thing: Give people a way to make themselves look good.


According to Berger, there are 3 main ways you can accomplish this:


1.) Find inner remarkability

Have you ever opened up a bottle of Snapple and turned over the cap? You’ll notice that there’s a fact on the other side of the cap.


Fact #798 – Tennessee was originally named Franklin after Benjamin Franklin.


Wait a minute. Is that true?


Bam! You’re now sucked in. You might share one of these Snapple Real Facts with your friend. In explaining the fact, you have to mention the brand name. This sharing might even provoke your friend to think “Hmm..a Snapple sounds great right now.”


Inner Remarkability is about generating surprise by breaking a pattern people have come to expect. Each brand should place an emphasis on what makes them remarkable.


2.) Leverage game mechanics

In order to leverage game mechanics, successfully, a brand should do the following:

  1. Quantify the performance of an individual. Then compare their performance to others. People don’t care how well they’re doing, just how well they’re doing in comparison to others.
  2. Give out awards. People love to show these off. In doing so, they’ll have to also share the brand name who gave them such a spectacular award.
  3. Help people publicize their achievements. Make it easy to share.
  4. Turn the game into a status symbol (much like what Airlines did with Frequent-Flyer clubs).


Combining these game mechanics will create brand ambassadors. They’ll do the marketing for you.



3.) Make people feel like insiders

When Facebook first started out in 2004 they did so by only allowing members of certain colleges to join. The popularity of the service was fueled, in part, by the exclusivity it generated. If you wanted to join, you could only do so if you were one of the “elite”.


Sales and marketing companies continue to use this insider psychology to push their products. Scarcity and exclusivity increase the sharing of content. By promoting a product that’s apparently hard to get, people infer that others may like it, that the quality is good and that they must have it. Ever tried to get a new iPhone when it launches?


Make people feel like insiders by giving “exclusive” deals or by promoting scarcity and exlusivity.


Many of you have seen Social Currency in action. Let us know of any examples you may have heard of. We’d love to add them to our list.

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