Should your brand be focused on Social Currency?


Vivaldi Partners recently released a study entitled “Social Currency” that looks at why brands need to build and nurture social currency.  Social Currency is one of those sayings your hear tossed around, but no one ever really defines it.  That is one of things that makes the Vivaldi study so interesting.  In the words of Vivaldi’s founder, Erich Joachimsthaler,  Social Currency is:

“the extent to which people share the brand or information about the brand with others as part of their everyday social lives… Social currency is not  just about conversation, buzz or community.  It is all this and much more. It does not impact every brand equally and certain levers of social currency are more important than others in driving value for companies.”

The report is a great read but there are a couple of key takeaways and snippets that I have captured from the report below:

Social Currency consists of six core levers

  • Affiliation: What share of your users has a sense of community?
  • Conversation: What share of your brand users recognizes and stirs buzz?
  • Utility: How many of your users derive value from interacting with other users?
  • Advocacy: How many users act as disciples and stand up for your brand?
  • Information: How many of your users feel they exchange fruitful information with others?
  • Identity: How many of your users can identify other users?

Social currency represents a shared asset of consumers and company-owned brands

It originates from interaction between customers and consumers.  Companies can stimulate the creation of social currency through means that cultivate a sense of community, strengthen consumer interaction and provide value to the community.  When done credibly brands earn trust  and can grow into an integral, almost symbiotic role in customers’ lives.

What matters is “meaningful” social currency.

Social media efforts should be evaluated in terms of the extent to which it contributes to a brand’s equity, the extent to which it drives category or industry attributes or connects with consumers. Example: successful viral efforts like Burger King’s subservient chicken digital efforts created a lot of buzz but did not really contribute to the strengthening of key components of its brand equity nor did the effort deliver on factors that drive purchase and consumption in the category.

Social Currency must be built and nurtured

Today’s digital technologies open up new and enormously exciting opportunities for building social currency. While there has been a plethora of experimentation over the years, it is clear that we have merely scratched the tip of the iceberg. As technologies evolve, new ways will emerge of how social currency can be built over time.  The big conundrum for marketers is that in an online world, brands are far more broadlyand proactively discussed than ever imagined.  As these conversations are often beyond the direct influence or control of a company, marketers must find innovative and creative ways to thoughtfully leverage these independent brand conversation and act credibly in the digital arena.

The full report does a great job of pulling out examples of Social Currency across different product categories.  Also, for more perspective on the topic, the May 2010 issue of Fast Company used the study for the article  “Five Steps for Consumer Brands to Earn Social Currency

A Dozen Books that should be on every Brand Manager’s Bookshelf

Anyone close to me will tell you that I am a huge reader of everything from books to magazines to blogs.  So it is no surprise that a question I often get is:

“What should a Marketer be reading?”

To answer that, I added the Amazon widget to my blog sidebar a few months ago.  But since a good number of RSS Readers never even make it to the site, I thought it would be helpful to write them up in a post as well.  With that, here are:

My Dozen Books for a Brand Manager’s Bookshelf

1.) A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the Twenty-First Century by Scott Bedbury

This is one book on branding that I turn to time and time again.  Scott was a senior marketer at both Starbucks and Nike during the days when their brands were truly shaped.  His thoughts on “Brand Mantra” alone are worth the cover price.

2.) Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Personally I don’t think Gladwell has ever written a bad book.  His latest is yet another example of why that holds true.

3.) Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Lots of marketers can fall into the trap of chasing “shiny objects” in the digital space.  Groundswell puts an end to that practice by giving Brand Managers a structured way to approach Social Media.

4.) Reality Check – The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki

It might be a book written for entrepreneurs initially, but it is really the perfect read for “Embedded Entrepreneurs” in companies everywhere.

5.) Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World by Pete Blackshaw

I am fortunate enough to list Pete as a friend and mentor so this might be a biased endorsement.  But all the same, Pete gives a wake-up call to the industry to start really paying attention to what consumers are saying in this new world.

6.) What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

It’s not a book just about Google, but instead a look at the mindset that has driven Google to become one of the most dominant companies in today’s digital landscape.  That is something any Brand Manager can learn from.

7.) Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business! by Paul Gillin

A follow-up to his first book, The New Influencers, Gillin writes a book that is probably hated by anyone calling themselves a “Social Media Consultant.”  This simple, easy to use guide about navigating online conversations and communities makes the space sound dramatically simpler than the “experts” make it out to be.

8.) Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe

If you haven’t thought about the dramatic impact that Crowdsourcing and Wisdom of the Crowds is going to have on your business, you need to pick up this book right now.  Simple as that.

9.) Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands by David Vinjamuri

I consider this inspiration for how to be extraordinary in business.  This book outlines the amazing stories of brands like Clif Bar, Columbia Sportswear and Burt’s Bees.

10.) The Open Brand: When Push Comes to Pull in a Web-Made World by Kelly Mooney

The President of Columbus, Ohio based Resource Interactive, Kelly is a thought-leader in the brand and agency space when it comes to new models of marketing.  It is a great look at how “to open up to consumer involvement in a brand’s messages and offerings.”

11.) Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

I’d be surprised to find a marketer who hasn’t read Seth Godin before.  If not, Tribes is his latest and Purple Cow is one of his all-time classics.  All his works are short, quick reads…a welcome change of pace compared to most other business books.

12.) The End of Marketing as We Know It by Sergio Zyman

Zyman is literally one of the first marketing authors I ever read so his books have a special place on this list.  As the former CMO of Coca-Cola, his writings are what taught me that “Marketing is not an art, it’s a business.”

One Year Later: A Recap of Hard Knox Life

Today marks 1 year and ~200 posts since I started writing Hard Knox Life.  A lot has happened in that short time.  On the personal side, I moved back to Cincinnati and got engaged to a special woman.  And on the business front, I started an amazing new role at P&G and met tons of interesting people thanks to this blog and Twitter.

So in honor of the one year anniversary, I wanted to recap the posts that I’m most proud of here on Hard Knox Life.

  1. Lessons of the Square Watermelon:  Hands down, my most successful post ever…yet one I wasn’t even the original author of!  Thanks to a plug from Guy Kawasaki and Marketing Profs, it’s had over 20K views.
  2. What I Believe In: My Personal Leadership Philosophy:  The other post that search engines seem to love, this talks to how I approach my personal leadership philosophy in the business world.
  3. Congratulations Motrin, You Just Proved Why Every Brand Needs to Understand Social Media:  Motrin was the latest in a line of brands to get in trouble by not appreciating the force of Social Media.  It is a cautionary tale for any Brand Manager.
  4. Even a Brand Manager Needs Their 10,000 Hours of Practice:  My most recent post on the list, inspired by Bob Lefsetz and Malcolm Gladwell.
  5. How should Brand Managers approach the Social Graphs of Facebook Connect and OpenID?:  The debate on this one is just getting started and doesn’t show signs of slowing down in 2009.
  6. Networking Isn’t a Dirty Word:  There are tons of interesting people doing interesting things out there.  Are you the type of Brand Manager that sits in conference rooms all day or are you making it a point to get out there and find out what’s next in the world of marketing?
  7. If It Looks Like a Brand Manager and Talks Like a Brand Manager That Doesn’t Mean Its a Marketer:  My riff on a common issue in Brand Management and marketing.
  8. Mashable Says Brands Don’t Belong on Twitter:  Lots of great debate on this one.  As Twitter looks for a revenue model, I personally see brands being a potential way for them to get there.
  9. Did Mitch Joel Miss the Mark on His 10 Twitter Users that Marketers Should Follow?:   If you are a Brand Manager looking for real inspiration in how digital can change your business, then this is my take on 10 people you should follow on Twitter.
  10. The 10 Bloggers Who Inspire Hard Knox Life:  Fitting to end my list with the people who I personally love reading.

Did I leave any out?

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Brand Managers need to pay attention to the potential of Mobile Marketing

How many times have you heard someone proclaim, “Mobile Marketing is going to be huge this year!”?  Personally I think I have heard it every year since about 2004.  But despite these constant shouts, I did read some recent facts & figures that make me think the time of mobile might arriving sooner rather than later.  Consider these:

The mobile phone is the most popular electronic device in the world:

  • 3X more cellphones than TV’s
  • 2X more cellphones that PC’s
  • 91% of mobile users keep their cell phone within one meter of themselves 24 hours/day 365 days/yr

The mobile phone is second nature to Millenials:

  • 10 years old is the average age a tween/teen gets their first cellphone
  • 88% of tweens/teens use a cell phone daily

There is huge potential for Digital Content and Search through the mobile phone:

  • 10.3MM US subscribers access video on their handset every month…yet 109MM user are capable of doing so on the cellphone they own
  • 500MM iPhone Apps have been downloaded since its debut in July 08
  • 21MM US mobile phone users who use search per month, a 68% increase in 2007

And finally if those didn’t grab your attention, marketers are starting to put their wallets where the facts are:

  • 25%+ of brands expect to see mobile advertising taking 2-5% of their overall marketing budget in the next 5 years
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Did Mitch Joel Miss the Mark On His 10 Twitter Users That Marketers Should Follow?

Recently Mitch Joel wrote about “10 Twitter Users That Every Marketing Professional Should Follow.“  While I think Mitch was spot-on with some of his recommendations such as Josh Bernoff, Avinash Kaushik, and Jeremiah Owyang, I believe his list focused too heavily on pure Social Media influencers.  It was a great list if a Brand Manager only wanted to learn about Social Media.

In my eyes that misses the big opportunity.  The real value of Twitter isn’t just to learn about Social Media…it is also a way to learn about being a better digital marketer.  After all, Twitter and other tools are a way to get in your 10,000 hours of practice in order to be great at what we do.  And marketers have a lot more on their plate than just Social Media when it comes to digital.

Given that, I wanted to give my own take on:

“10 Twitter Users Every Brand Manager Should Follow To Be A Better Marketer.”

Listed in no particular order:

Barry Judge – Best Buy CMO

Barry is a must follow for marketers for two reasons.  First off, he is the Chief Marketing Officer of one of the world’s largest retailers.  If he has time to embrace Twitter, there is no reason you don’t as well.  Second, he shows the power of using the “Wisdom of the Crowds” to grow your business by openly inviting people to attend brainstorming sessions and even critique Best Buy’s not-yet released advertising.

John Battelle – Founder of Federated Media

John is one of the true innovators in the digital space.  He was the original Managing Editor of Wired Magazine, Founder of the Industry Standard and now the CEO of Federated Media.  And in his spare time he wrote the definitive book on Google / Search Marketing and started the Web 2.0 Summit / Expo with O’Reilly Media.  I think those are reasons enough Brand Managers need to be paying attention to him and what he has to say about Conversational Media and Marketing.

Tony Hsieh – CEO of Zappos

Honestly there is nothing I can say about Tony that hasn’t been written before. Every business person should learn how to take a page from the Zappos book about creating an amazing company based on putting your customer first.  This is a guy who is truly building his company tweet by tweet.

Kara Swisher – Wall Street Journal &

As the “digital voice” for the Wall Street Journal, Kara is often the source of breaking news in technology and Silicon Valley.  She is also the co-host of D: All Things Digital Conference, which is often called the premiere digital executive conference.

Pete Blackshaw – Nielsen Online

Pete is a marketer’s marketer.  In ’99 he helped P&G be named Interactive Marketer of the Year and then went on to start Planet Feedback, one of the earliest advocates of using the Internet for listening and engaging with consumers.  He’s a guy who dreams big and his Twitter stream is always filled with thoughts that will make you think.

Scott Monty – Head of Social Media at Ford

Before moving to Ford, Scott was at the “virtual agency” Crayon with Joe Jaffe.  In 2008, he took the challenge to lead up Social Media, just in time to deal with the disaster that has become the auto industry in the past few months.   Scott’s handling of that situation and his internal guidance has helped Ford stay in better shape than his rivals.  He is fighting the good fight to show colleagues that “firewalls are for cars, not social media.”

Peter Kim – Former Forrester Analyst

When Pete was at Forrester, he wrote some of my favorite pieces of research such as Agency 2.0.  Last year, he left Forrester to join a start-up that has the mission of “Working on changing the world of work.”  In addition to his great insights, Pete also pushes us all to not get stuck in the “echo chamber” where bloggers and social media advocates are just talking to themselves.

Ian Schafer – CEO of Deep Focus

There are a lot of interesting people from the agency side but Ian stands out from the crowd and is my personal favorite.  First off, his agency is doing some of the more interesting digital work out there, including some breakthrough stuff for HBO.  But Ian is also willing to push the boundaries of innovation, such as his experiment to auction off sponsorship of his Twitter profile.

Frank Eliason – Comcast Cares

Frank is the Comcast Director of Digital Care.  In plain English, you can call him the man that single handily changed the image of Comcast customer service.  Every Brand Manager should follow his lead in show genuine desire to help consumers and solve their problems.

And the one repeat from Mitch Joel’s list (borrowing his description since it sums up this last person perfectly):

Avinash Kaushik.
Kaushik is the analytics evangelist for Google, author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Blogger over at Occam’s Razor. His tweets add a whole other dimension to the world of web analytics, but more importantly, marketing.

Note – Chas Edwards also pointed out a list from Forbes on the 10 Most Influential Twitter Users.

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