Social Currency

December 11, 2018

What it is and how you can use it to develop your business.

In October, Page 2 was fortunate to attend the Legal Marketing Association Northeast Chapter’s annual conference in Boston and hear a fabulous keynote address by Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of Business and author of a bestselling book called Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

In his talk, Jonah told a story about a speakeasy in the East Village in Manhattan called Please Don’t Tell. In order to enter, you go down some stairs into a hot dog stand, find the phone booth in the back, and press the buzzer inside. If you are approved, the wall at the back of the phone booth opens up and you enter a small room with a bar at its center.

Please Don’t Tell has no slogan, no sign, and no advertising campaign. And yet even on a Monday night it is jammed with people. Why? Because people love to have a secret. Even more, people want to be the one who has a great secret to tell—to be in the know, to be ahead of the trend. Being the one who knows about the speakeasy before anyone else does gives you social currency.

Fully 91 percent of B-to-B leads come from existing clients. If you can harness the power of social currency to create excitement about the service you have to offer, your clients will do all your marketing for you by spreading the word. Why do some services get more word-of-mouth than others? It’s not because some are inherently more interesting that others. It’s because the people communicating about them found a kernel of something relatable or useful and then found a way to tell a story about that thing.

So how can this work for law firms?

·    Focus on the story you’re telling: Why was Mad Men’s Don Draper seen as such a genius in the world of advertising? Because every campaign he worked on, even for the most mundane of products, began with the story he was telling about it. The round device at the center of the slide projector was not a donut, it was a “carousel,” and viewing photos was like taking a beautiful, nostalgic journey through all the important moments of your life. A hunk of plastic became a story that made a room full of grown men cry. Sure, the actual nuts-and-bolts service you provide may be highly technical, but what you’re selling is an experience of peace of mind, security, innovation, expertise. The emotion your client experiences is the kernel at the heart of the story you should be telling about your firm’s work.

·    Create social currency for others: The more you position the lawyers in your firm as experts—the experts—in their specific niches, the more the clients you serve will derive a sense of heightened status from their association with you. They got in on the ground floor. Now they will be thinking about which of their associates they’d like to invite into this rarified circle. The important thing to understand about social currency is that it doesn’t just happen on its own because you provided excellent service. Social currency is created when you do good work and find ways to communicate about it that solidify your reputation—and therefore the desire of others to work with you.

·    Harness the power of client experience: Find ways to get authentic feedback from clients, actually listen to what they say, and make changes to your work process based on what you learn. When you make others feel good and important—not only by complimenting them for their good taste in choosing what they choose, but also in validating their experiences by hearing and acting on what they tell you—they will become your best ambassadors and advocates.