Creating new value: five steps for health brands to earn social currency


The real title of this Fast Company article written by Ben Paynter is Five Steps for Consumer Brands to Earn Social Currency. It is based on a Vivaldi Partners/Lightspeed study of social media efforts that create true value for organizations and their customers. But there are good insights here for health brand marketers to consider as you develop, execute and refine your social media efforts.

1. Advocates Trump Followers. Strength isn’t always in numbers. While Dunkin’ Donuts has 80% fewer Facebook and Twitter followers than Starbucks, Dunkin’ fans are 35% more likely to recommend the brand given its social media practices. Dunkin has shown that interesting initiatives that help fans engage, with your brand and with each other through your brand, build brand advocates. I think P&G’s BeingGirl.com is a good example of this.

2. Context Matters. Using the example of beer drinkers, the study found that “product and packaging innovations do not help create relevance in this consumer’s daily life.” What’s important is the bonding or “social context” during consumption. I relate this back to blasting out one-way messages touting latest technologies or chest-pounding statistics versus posting (for instance) a video on YouTube featuring an elderly couple playing the piano in the atrium of Mayo Clinic. Real people. Real story. Real relevant.

3. Not Every Brand Should Be Social. Mass-market brands positioned based on functional superiority, such as Gillette (with 96% of study respondents touting good quality and reliability), aren’t likely to see much upside in social currency. I don’t agree with this statement for the reason they cite, as social media programs should always be built around achieving specific objectives – whether building awareness, cultivating relationships, promoting new products, or targeting new markets.

4. Social Tools Are A Means, Not An End. In reviewing Axe and Clinique, the study concludes that Axe’s social-media efforts don’t translate as strongly into meaningful talk or an ardent defense when compared with a brand such as Clinique, because the Axe audience knows that it’s all a goof. By contrast, Clinique’s more instructive approach –- for example, YouTube how-to tutorials — has earned it stronger social currency. Certainly, the inherent benefits that your health brands provide give you a leg up in creating this social currency.

5. Gimmicks Marginalize Trust. Last year, Wendy’s “You Know When It’s Real” campaign featured commercial spots, online games, and contests highlighting how its never-frozen patties are cooked to order. Burger King created the Whopper Sacrifice, asking fans to drop 10 friends on Facebook to get a free hamburger, the latest in a string of Internet-sensation stunts. Today, BK’s fickle fans have moved on, but customers trust Wendy’s products much more, according to the Vivaldi-Lightspeed study. The ability of your health brands to help improve lives –– and the different ways to demonstrate this through social tools — lend themselves to building this trust.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, a brand consulting and marketing agency specializing in creating momentum for customers, brands and businesses across the related categories of health, wellness and beauty.

7 thoughts on “Creating new value: five steps for health brands to earn social currency

  1. You make a good point about how numbers can be deceiving in social media. To look simply at number of fans or followers is easy but is truly not the best measure of success. Convincing people who are not immersed in social media that it’s not all about numbers can be a challenge.

    You only have to click a button once to become a fan – staying engaged requires a commitment. I see this every time iTunes posts to Facebook – within minutes there are hundreds of “likes” and comments. You can have hundreds of followers on Twitter but if no one is commenting on or passing along your content, are they really listening?

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