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Use Social Currency in leisure and hospitality

Marco Louters Auteur

Marco Louters

1 July 2022 | 5 minute read

Social Currency in Restaurants and Leisure_Extra
Marco Louters Auteur

Marco Louters

1 July 2022 | 5 minute read

Whát we talk about affects how others see us. We like to talk about things that promote our social status in the group. Things that make us seem interesting. Things that make us seem smart. Things that make us seem cool.

Social Currency is one of the six possible ingredients to encourage virality; going viral. Going viral is basically a super-fast spread of an image, audio, video or piece of information from one person to another.

I would say that the term originally has a link to viruses – which spread at blistering speed from person to person – but we prefer not to think back to the coronavirus

It is often said that you cannot make virality; you cannot design it. There is a belief that you simply have to get lucky. It either goes viral, or it doesn’t. It is in the hands of the internet gods.

Fortunately, there have been very smart people who have studied this phenomenon, such as Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Jonah Berger, author of Contagious, and Adam L. Penenberg, author of Viral Loop.

It turns out that companies that go viral succeed for many of the same reasons, while unsuccessful ones seem to fail in different ways.

This is interesting, because it means that we can look at the common factors of the companies that have been successful in going viral.

One of these common factors is Social Currency, the subject of this blog. How can you, as owner or manager of a leisure or hospitality company, use Social Currency in your business concept and marketing?

In the near future, we will also pick up the other five ingredients.

The in total six components – the STEPPS – all come from the book Contagious, by Jonah Berger. It is also one of the three books that underlie the concept of Questlog.

1. Social Currency -> word-of-mouth advertising

You are what you share 🗣️

Not everyone wants to go viral. But even if you, personally, do not need to go viral with your business, it is still wise to keep Social Currency in mind when designing a business concept and marketing message.

Social Currency equals word-of-mouth marketing.

You are what you eat. You are what you wear. We are already familiar with those statements. But you are also what you share.

We know currency as a term used for a means of payment, or a type of money. We could actually see this as value. Currency = value.

So, social value.

What people talk about affects what others think of them. What you talk about can increase status, but also decrease it.

With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that we would rather share things that make us seem smart than stupid, and that we would rather talk about topics that make us seem cool than boring, fun than dull, fast than slow, on-trend than outdated.

And to talk about things? We love doing that.

Talking and sharing are part of our most fundamental behaviors. They make us human. They connect and shape.

40% of what we talk about is ‘self-sharing’ 👉😶👈

It already starts in our childhood. We just drew a beautiful picture of mom and dad. One arm is a little weirder than the other, but that doesn’t matter. In some places we didn’t quite manage to color within the lines, but that doesn’t matter.

We are proud of it!

Time to show the drawing to others!

Self-sharing follows us from young to old. We are constantly sharing our thoughts, opinions and experiences with others. Some people a little more through social media. Other people more at a bar.

In fact, research shows that more than 40% of everything people discuss is about their personal experiences or relationships.

This is not just vanity.

Psychologically, sharing one’s opinions provides the same rewards as food and money. Jason Mitchell and Diana Tamir, two Harvard neuroscientists, discovered that sharing personal opinions activates exactly these same brain circuits.

But how can we fuel Social Currency?

2. Create an inner remarkability

Social Currency strategy #1 🤯

One strategy is to attach an inner remarkability to the product or service.

Jonah Berger writes in his book about a $100 cheesesteak.

( After Ada designed the image for this blog, I discovered my memory had failed me. I thought Jonah talked about a cheesecake… But no, it was a cheesesteak. ) 😅

When Howard Wein opened his steakhouse in Philadelphia, he knew he had to get his guests talking. After all, restaurants are very good at going out of business. His marketing budget wasn’t very big either.

But how? How could he become the topic of conversation?

A $100 cheesesteak might help….

Wein expected to gain publicity by taking the simple cheesesteak to new culinary heights, with a newsworthy price tag.

Indeed, the cheesesteak became a topic of conversation. “It was like eating gold.” A high-end product served with a chilled glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne. “Honestly indescribable.” His customers spread the news.

Howard Wein had created an inner remarkability.

Something remarkable can be thought of as striking. Maybe a little weird. Different. Special. Bizarre. Extraordinary. Peculiar. Out of the ordinary. Exceptional. Maybe it’s new. Surprising. Extreme. Or simply interesting.

But the most important aspect of remarkable things is that they are worthy of mention.

Worthy of mention.

What are some other examples?

Holding a living snake? A bowl of dried insects as option in your soup? Being immersed in a surreal art maze? Being allowed to break everything in a smash room? Meditating beneath an enormous moon in an old church? Spending the night in a gypsy wagon? A burger challenge? A visually stunning cocktail?

Next, make that remarkability as inherent to the product as possible.

3. Use gamification

Social Currency strategy #2 🎮

Gamification is another strategy that can help in generating Social Currency. Gamification is basically the use of game elements in the real, offline world.

People like to share their achievements; reaching a new level segment, finally completing that difficult challenge, winning that big reward.

This is where some degree of status comes in.

( By the way, people differ in what type of status they consider important. Consider also checking out our blog on player types )

An important ingredient of gamification is therefore social connection. Can friends find each other in the game? Can they compare and share?

Also consider automated Social Currency. What if players could instantly see what their friends have just done and achieved; where they’ve been?

Monkey see is monkey do.

This is a subject you could use Questlog for.

Questlog makes a game out of trying new experiences in hospitality, leisure, culture and nature. Companies are part of one big playing field.

The gamification at individual companies (in the form of Quests), linked to each other, strengthen the whole. The progression that the player experiences does not end at one visit, but continues.

From restaurant to bar, to museum, to lunchroom. And so on, and so on.

4. Make people Insiders

Social Currency strategy #3 🤓

Social Currency, of course, also includes sharing interesting news… And what if that news is known only to a small number of individuals? What if it’s actually a secret?

It seems that if something is supposed to be secret, people are more likely to talk about it.

What if there is a secret passage under a pair of barber chairs to an underground cocktail bar? What if the back wall of a phone booth turns out to be a door that can only be opened by dialing the right phone number?

Come up with something interesting, new, cool, awesome, that is initially known to only a small group of people (who you know will pass it on).

What if only a few guests are invited to the release of a new specialty beer (who may also bring friends)? What if the marketing of the beer had not yet begun prior to the event?

What if people had access to something special?

Deals that no one else can see?

Early access?

Design this strategy in such a way that it is story worthy. Worth mentioning.

Social Currency.