In my lovely state of Texas, it is 100% legal to kill Bigfoot, if you ever find it (Snapple Real Fact #1339). I am willing to bet that you will share that fact with at least one other person. Why am I so confident? Because that piece of information is novel, surprising, and provides you with social currency. These things are very important to keep in mind as I explain why content marketing is the single most important form of digital marketing a company can invest in.
Content marketing is vital to a business’ success and customer loyalty, but that’s not the whole of it. Businesses must be very intentional about said content. If customers don’t care about content, it will be useless white noise, which could even lead customers to unfollow brands due to being spammed with useless content. Therefore, it is critical that brands provide content that is valuable to the consumer. For this reason, it would behoove businesses to partner with psychologists in identifying content that is valuable to consumers and will make consumers more likely to share that brand’s content. One book that excellently outlines how one might do this is Contagious by Jonah Berger. What is particularly relevant in Contagious is the exploration of what makes Snapple so valuable: the social currency it gives and the subsequent viral nature of their product. The content that companies use must be novel or interesting, and it must provide the consumer with social currency. When employed properly, content marketing will utilize the single most effective form of advertisement: word of mouth. For this reason, content marketing is the most vital form of digital marketing.
Content Marketing Role
Content marketing is a form of digital marketing that consists of businesses producing content that is not directly trying to push sales. An example of this is Snapple putting surprising and real facts under every Snapple lid. The information is purposeful, and is used in the hopes of increasing sales, but the fact that elephants are afraid of bees (Real Fact #1226) is not directly urging people to buy more Snapple. Content marketing is effective for multiple reasons: it is a consistent presence in the people’s day-to day life, it provides multiple triggers that instantiate the product in consumers’ minds, and most importantly, it utilizes the customer’s propensity for sharing their opinions with others. I will be focusing on the last point, as it is the most relevant to the topic of social currency.
When it comes to advertising, nothing is more compelling to new customers than a recommendation from someone they know. While companies pay advertising agencies and celebrities to push their products, no one is paying your friend Joe to tell you how good the neighborhood pizza place is. Think about it, who’s recommendation are you more likely to trust: someone who you know is only recommending something because they’re paid to do so, or someone who is recommending something because they genuinely enjoy it? When products are recommended by friends, the recommendations have more weight than when they come from paid representatives. For this reason, companies have adapted to incorporate word-of-mouth advertisement. Buzz agencies drum up free-range recommenders by finding people who fit the demographic for new products and give them an opportunity to experience that product. This is so effective because those same people are likely to tell their friends about the products they actually enjoy–for free. Why? Social currency.
Social currency is anything someone knows or possesses that increases their social standing. That is, social currency makes someone look smarter, funnier, or more important than they would be otherwise. In practical terms, things provide social currency when they are novel or interesting. Novelty provides social currency by making someone appear more intelligent or more “in the know.” The great part for companies looking to utilize word-of-mouth? People love sharing their opinions and using social currency. People are naturally inclined to share their opinions; as explored in Originals, it is intrinsically rewarding. This is great news, as it means that people are intrinsically rewarded for spreading the word about their favorite products and brands. The only thing companies have to do to utilise this natural inclination is provide the consumer with something to talk about. On a basic level, this comes from consumers enjoying a product and talking about it. However, another way to amp up the buzz is by utilizing the other side of word-of-mouth: social currency. Companies can tap into this aspect by utilising content marketing, as long as it is the right content.
Content Utilization In Marketing
Companies who seek to utilize content marketing should aim for their content to hone in on what is novel and interesting about their brand. Companies should find ways of making their content socially valuable. For instance, Glossier creates novel content by using models that have acne scars and bushy eyebrows. This is practically unheard of and gets people talking. That is the goal. When people find something shocking, unbelievable, or novel, they reach out socially to discuss it, and by extension share that brand. Take The Blair Witch Project, for example. It was advertised as a found-footage movie and people were shocked. They just had to discuss it with their friends. What did they think? Was it real? Did witches actually exist or was it a hoax? This type of communication only served to feed into the popularity of the movie. Social currency is a powerful motivator for people to share a brand’s content.
In summary, when considering digital marketing, the most effective tool a brand has is content marketing. This is because it naturally gives customers content that they find novel and interesting and therefore worthy of sharing. Additionally, this type of word-of-mouth advertisement is effective at recruiting new customers, due to its genuine nature. But this type of word-of-mouth only happens when content is worthy of being shared or is socially valuable. Therefore, companies wishing to utilize content marketing must identify what is novel and interesting about their brand. A company’s digital presence is vital to its success and content marketing is a key piece in that.