The first of Jonah’s 6 viral STEPPS is Social Currency. Put simply, it’s the stuff that makes you look good/clever/trendy/cool when you share it. It buys you respect/admiration/love etc.
In this section of the book we are introduced (ironically) to a secret bar in New York called ‘Please Don’t Tell‘. It’s hidden away in a small hot dog restaurant and is only accessible via a 1930s telephone box if you dial the old analogue phone. Oh and only if you managed to book a table, on that day, in the 30 minute slot you have before everything is gone.
Apart from the fact that getting a reservation is incredibly difficult, the way you enter the bar is remarkable. It’s an experience before you even get inside. And this is the point. The bar is incredibly successful because it has made everything about the experience remarkable. And people WANT to share this. This is social currency. Or as Jonah puts it:
“People share things that make them look good to others.” p33
This social sharing is an intrinsic part of our human nature. When we’re kids we do a drawing and immediately want to share it with others (Look Mummy!). Apparently, ‘self-sharing’ follows us throughout out lives. We happily tell friends and family what bargains we picked up at the shops, where we’ve been on holiday, or pass on an interesting article we read in a paper. Social media has taken this self sharing to the next level. To the point where it is getting addictive.
Jonah points out that: “research finds that more than 40 percent of what people talk about is their personal experiences or personal relationships.”
And why is this? It’s more than just vanity it seems, we are “actually wired to find it pleasurable”. p33.
Neuroscientists from Harvard have found that the same brain circuits that respond to rewards such as food and money, light up when sharing their opinions and attitudes.
Not surprisingly, people prefer to share things that them seem more entertaining, clever or cool. Jonah refers to word of mouth as being “as potent as that new car or Prada handbag” p36. It’s a kind of currency – a currency that buys you a more positive impression amongst your peers.
For brands and companies the trick therefore is to:“give people a way to make themeslves look good while promoting [the brand’s] products and ideas along the way. There are three ways to do that: (1) find inner remarkability; (2) leverage game mechanics; and (3) make people feel like insiders.” p36
We’ll touch on these three in Part 3 of our book review!