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$ocial Curr€ncy

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p183nkmepjv8j16e07h1f4mmcg5Photo Credit: Milka

Social currency is one of those buzzwords that gets tossed around quite frequently. In its simplest form it’s the totality of the resources that arise from the interactions that take place in social networks or communities, online or off.

Today it is used more in relation to the various online social networks that have cropped up in the last decade—the application, however, remains the same. But let’s take a quick peek down the rabbit hole; what happens when you take social currency to a literal interpretation? That’s when things start to get interesting, where traditional approaches merge with the current, in retrospect, ironic but innovate applications. When you take a literal approach to social currency, you find yourself face to face with a budding trend in the experiential marketing space—interactive socially enabled vending machines. Brands have been increasingly reinventing these ubiquitous traditional retail experiences over the past few years with a social twist, the utilization of your social interaction as actual currency.

Initially, this took the form of kiosks that distributed samples or swag in return for a hashtagged tweet (BOS Ice Tea – ‘Bev’), Foursquare check-in (Nokia – Gift Machine), or Facebook like (Nestlé – Chocolike). But has since evolved to incorporate your offline social interactions: hugs (Coca-Cola – Hug Me), hand holding (Milka – Dare to be Tender), dancing (Coca-Cola – Coke Dance), and rugby tackles (Salta – Rugbeer)?

Silliness aside, the common thread among these examples was that they were all instantly shareable, discussable, and in essence viral. Each activation featured highly targeted and exceptionally socially relevant placement that primed participants to share; and for the respective brands engendered true social currency along the way. But then again, who wouldn’t if a vending machine dispensed a kayak on your way to work (Tourism British Columbia – The BC Moments Machine).

Can we see tweets, increasingly complex handshakes, or gangnam style horse dances replacing cold hard cash in the next five years? Probably not, but with the advent of wireless and wallet free payment methods, new paradigms of business are definitely just around the horizon.

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