Social currency, chocolate and promoting your book

Orange Sticks from Sweet's Candy Company

Orange Sticks from Sweet’s

Always a chocolate fiend, I was completely happy when a local friend suggested we start a Wednesday dessert club. I knew she was smart. I just didn’t know she was THAT smart.

I’ve had that kind of thing happen to me before. When I first moved to Utah, a friend living in Wisconsin (who had lived in Utah before) introduced me to Sweet Candy Company in Salt Lake City, where they make chocolate covered orange sticks and saltwater taffy. I’ve enjoyed this friend ever since I met her, but that day at the candy factory outlet store, my estimation of her soared even higher.

Why am I bringing this up now, on this blog?

Besides the fact that chocolate is involved in both those stories, they demonstrate a word-of-mouth marketing concept I’ve recently begun studying: social currency.

Here’s one definition of social currency, from Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice:

Social currency is the value you earn in a social engagement by being interesting and fun to be with.

As I understand it, social currency is something that boosts the social status of the person doing the talking. Apparently, talking about chocolate with me is an easy way for this to happen. I think it’s more than ‘like what I like, and my estimation of you automatically goes up,’ though.

In Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger wrote the following:

Word of mouth, then, is a prime tool for making a good impression–as potent as that new car or Prada handbag. Think of it as a kind of currency. Social currency. Just as people use money to buy products or services, they use social currency to achieve desired positive impressions among their families, friends and colleagues.

So to get people talking, companies and organizations need to mint social currency. Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting these products and ideas along the way.

So here’s the big question, for all of us who love to write and want to sell our fiction books. How can our books give social currency to people so they’ll actually start talking about them?

I’m all for handing out enough chocolate with my books that the people who talk about my book could pass pieces of chocolate on, but I don’t think I could afford it and I don’t really think it would work. 🙂 This has to be something intrinsic.

I’m brainstorming about The Night Ones Legacy now, as well as the sequel that’s underway. Berger said talking about remarkable things creates social currency. So does making people feel like an insider, and so does making something into a game or competition–which could explain why book giveaways and contests are so popular right now.

So maybe, for all of us, at least part of the solution to creating word-of-mouth buzz about our books is the ability to answer the following questions:

  1. What makes my book remarkable?
  2. Beyond that, how will talking about my remarkable book help another person seem remarkable?
  3. What about my book helps others feel included in an exclusive group?
  4. How can talking about my book help others feel like they’re doing well in comparison to other people in some way? Can I use a contest or giveaway to create word of mouth buzz?

There’s a lot to learn here, and I imagine I’ll be experimenting with (and blogging about) this sometime in the near future.

I’d love to hear feedback from others, both authors and seasoned marketers, on what sorts of questions we need to be asking ourselves. Better yet, I’d love to know what the answers are. 🙂

Since this is something different for every book, it’s probably something we’ll all be learning together.

2 Comments to “Social currency, chocolate and promoting your book”

  1. Free bookmarks always helps in the physical world. I think another thing that helps with social currency is connecting with other self-published authors. It’s a difficult path and having someone to help you walk down it can make all the difference. Social media helps authors promote each other’s books and share fanbases. A lot of authors (and most non-authors) think that the marketing of a self-published book requires that we ‘go it alone’. The truth is that we’d get farther by helping each other and using that bond of authorship as a shared social currency like a company debit card that everyone passes around.


    • I agree with this completely. One author’s success is success for all of us. Besides, it’s fun sharing work and promoting the work of other authors! 🙂


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