Social Media Currency — the new cash in your pocket

Topshop's recent  #TrickorTweet campaign for Hallowe’enBack in September, Kellogg’s launched the first ever tweet shop for a week to mark the launch of its new Special K cracker crisps. The unique store in Soho offered consumers the chance to try the crisps and then purchase the product, not with money but via a tweet with the hash tag #TweetShop.

The concept of using tweets for currency seems a little odd – the products are effectively being given away for free. However, this was using currency in a different way, by tapping into social currency and the word-of-mouth nature of social networks.

Kellogg’s was quickly followed by Topshop with its recent campaign, #TrickorTweet for Hallowe’en. And in terms of brand recognition Topshop has got it in the bag.

To promote the launch of its ‘Witching Hour’ Hallowe’en fashion collection, the retailer invited fans to tweet their Hallowe’en outfit or tips with the hash tag #TrickorTweet@Topshop.

The tweets judged the best each day were rewarded with £100-worth of gift cards to spend in-store. Selected stores were also offering customers the chance to use their tweets as actual currency in Topshop Tweet Shops in exchange for Hallowe’en-inspired make-up and other prizes.

Topshop has made Twitter currency work in full circle – taking social networking directly to the point of purchase, then back out to the social network to spread the word of the campaign and associated products.

If Kellogg’s led the way as the first-ever tweet shop, other brands had already been championing the social media currency movement.

Earlier this year, American Express in conjunction with Foursquare and Harvey Nichols launched a campaign during London Fashion Week, where Amex cardholders were able to sync with Foursquare, and if they checked in at the department store and spent £25 they were given a £25 credit.  The campaign echoed Amex’s March 2012 campaign, where American Express cardholders could get savings from a number of US brands, such as McDonalds, Dell, and Whole Foods, by syncing their Twitter account with Amex, and tweet using a specified hashtag for that brand, with the money saved going directly onto the synced card. Customers could get savings at Whole Foods by using the hashtag #AmexWholeFoods and the applicable saving was automatically applied on the next purchase.

It’s not just here in the UK that Twitter currency has taken off. Over in Cape Town, a vending machine was set up to deliver free BOS iced tea when it received a tweet with the hashtag #tweet4t, connecting to the Twitter Streaming API and registering the configured hashtag as a filter.  When the hashtag appeared on Twitter, the vending machine checked it and – if correct – gave out a free drink, with the  tweet also being displayed on a screen on the front panel of the machine.

Here lies the secret to where Twitter currency, and indeed social media money in general, becomes a powerful tool. If brands can harness the potential of word of mouth they can build and alter their brand perception in a matter of days, or even hours. In an age of austerity where brands often have to rely on positive perception and recommendation to be successful, the act of using a tweet as a form of currency rather than actual cash bizarrely starts to make a lot of sense.

Rosie Collins, Senior Account Executive, iD Experiential.