Fri, August 10 2012

Thriving in the social media gift economy

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Social Media •

Let’s pretend you’ve invited me over to your house for dinner.  I come to the occasion with a nice bottle of Marlborough region Sauvignon Blanc.  Great, right?

Now let’s pretend that instead, I show up and hand you $20 bucks to thank you for having me to dinner.

You’d be offended, right?  That’s because I would be applying market norms to a social norms situation. (See yesterday’s post for a definition of what are market vs. social norms.)

Another way you can look at it is through the lens of a “gift economy.”  That’s a way that anthropologists describe cultures or situations governed by social norms.  Or, as Harvard Business Review blogger Mark Bonchek explains in this post, a gift economy is:

1. About relationships, not transactions.  Think of the dinner party example - bringing wine to share versus money to pay.

2. About social currency (which is based in relationship), not financial currency. In the realm of social media, says Bonchek, “Facebook “Likes” are social currencies, while Facebook Credits are virtual currencies. There is no price on a Facebook Like, while Facebook Credits have a clear market value.”

3. About earning, not buying status.  Boncheck gives the example of in the Pacific Northwest, native tribes gave status not to those who accumulated the most wealth, but instead to those who gave the most to the community.

So what does this have to do with social media?

It is a gift economy, Boncheck rightfully asserts.  People use social media to connect with other people, to exchange social media and to earn status.

That’s why you can’t thrive on social media by focusing on transactions, money and self-promotion.

Here’s how Boncheck recommends you conduct yourself (and I quote directly):

1) Build relationships.
• Push out information to drive transactions: Base
• Create relationships with individuals: Better
• Help people create relationships with each other: Best

2) Earn status.
• Celebrate your own accomplishments: Base
• Celebrate the accomplishments of others: Better
• Enable people to celebrate each other’s accomplishments: Best

3) Create social currencies.
• Focus on discounts and promotions: Base
• Think of your product (or mission) as a social currency: Better
• Create new social currencies related to your brand: Best

So what can nonprofits do?  If you’re a diabetes organization, Tweet other people’s great recipes and healthy eating tips.  If you’re a museum with a photography exhibit, use your Facebook page to facilitate people sharing their own work inspired by your latest exhibit .  If you promote gardens, celebrate the most beautiful ones you find in your community and people’s yards in your Flickr account.  You get the idea.  It’s about the gifts - the gifts of others, the gifts of sharing and gift of generosity that you provide, rather than seek.  That’s my kind of economy!

  • Comment: (8)   

Comments

Great post, Katya - as a fundraiser I advise clients that it’s about relationship building and not asking for money and I think that’s even more true of social media.  I also think social media is a great way of charities supporting each other and strengthening their voice collectively. No one likes the person who constantly blasts out their own promotions - it’s the social media equivalent of talking about yourself ALL the time!  Will share this post (and the wine analogy).  Thanks!

Posted by Heather  on  08/10  at  08:28 AM

Great post, as always, Katya. Donors want us to give back to them and to show them that we know them. As crass as bringing a check to pay for your social meal is, so is sending a form thank you letter or misspelling a donor’s name or ignoring what they have to say in social media channels. We’ve simply got to develop a network mindset and a culture of engaging.

Posted by claire axelrad  on  08/10  at  04:15 PM

I agree with Heather and Claire, I think sometimes nonprofits, especially when they first start out with social media, use it only to promote their programs/events and think they can get donations through that. Sharing content, including content from other people & organizations, that your fans would be interested in is a great way to position yourself as their go-to source for that kind of information.

Posted by Jess Green  on  08/12  at  11:35 AM

Thank you for putting your thoughts in words which give me time to consider. The first rule of networking for me has always been to give something first. You have gone beyond that to extend influence with those who desire a part of your bond.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/13  at  07:21 PM

Katya, thank you for your wonderful application of my blog post about bringing gift economy and social currency to the world of non-profits.  The principles are relevant not only for fundraising (recognizing their financial gifts, but with volunteers (recognizing their contribution of time and energy).

Posted by Mark Bonchek  on  09/08  at  11:33 AM

I like the idea of a gift economy where it’s all about earning, not buying status. It would give a lot more meaning to life and status would be hard earned, not just bought with hard cash.

Posted by Deanna Young  on  05/24  at  12:18 PM

Great post and i love the new layout!  I also think social media is a great way of charities supporting each other and strengthening their voice collectively. Sharing content, including content from other people & organizations, that your fans would be interested in is a great way to position yourself as their go-to source for that kind of information.

Posted by Denise van der Tuin  on  07/15  at  07:29 PM

I totally agree with Claire and Heather, There’s no doubt that quite often non profits, in particular when they are just beginning with online community, use it just to advertise their programs and feel they are able to obtain contributions using that. Giving out information, which includes content from other folks and organizations, that your followers would be fascinated with is the right approach to position yourself as their go-to basis for that type of information.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/02  at  10:57 AM

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