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Importance of Social Currency in Social Media Marketing

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In the world of social media marketing, the word viral is stress-inducing yet desperately desired. No digital marketing strategist, expert, practitioner have ever able to pinpoint the exact formula to guarantee content virality success. There are indications, logic reasoning, even steps pointing out to how content goes viral; but clear cut success formula? There is none.

When Mashable explained the science of virality, it included social currency as one of the reasons why people are moved to share content and trigger it to go viral. Simply put, the better it makes them look, the more likely they will share the content.

Take this theory when examining Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil’s recent public service announcement campaign, #JagalahFasilitasPublik (maintain public facilities), which uses soppy humor to appeal to his constituents. It seems like Mashable has got it right on the dot. Kamil’s campaign copy which takes a humorous jab to personal relationship woes gained more than 38,500 likes and over 9,900 shares in Facebook in under one week.

Kepada seluruh warga Bandung tercinta,... - Ridwan Kamil Untuk Bandung

Dimas Novriandi, social media strategist and head of business development at Mirum Jakarta, explained that the mayor’s campaign reached such heightened success due to his ability to use relatable content.

“Using Sundanese in his campaign, which is the primary language in Bandung, adds a level of relevance to the campaign”, said Dimas through email. “The Mayor and his team were able to capture the importance of attractive visual content and were bold enough to ride on ‘happening’ moments in the digital scene, shown by the hashtags he used”, he added.

Forget the fact that the ads sound tacky or that it blatantly exploits the soppy-inclined nature of Indonesians, the result is hard to deny. Kamil’s PSA message appeals to the emotional aspect of camaraderie which increases the social currency of the content. In this case, it makes them look like compassionate human being thus encourages them to participate. It makes them look good.

But on the other side, Ridwan Kamil’s social media success is also believed to be the result of his effective personal branding. “His campaign’s success, more or less rides on the modern, educated, and people person image he projected”, expounded Boyke Yanuar, creative director at Dancing Clouds and an avid brand building observer.

Novriandi agrees that effective personal branding heightens the element of trust. “His people feel emotionally connected to him because he came from the people, which gives a fresh new hope”. ​

Kamil’s wave of social response breeds new and interesting phenomena of social governing. In a country where people are so used to being told what to do, Kamil’s take-on of “father/friend”role is warmly embraced and glorified.

His approach to connect through social media has delivered a fresh take on how city government interacts with its people. In a nation where destruction of public facility is a crime punishable by law, Kamil’s approach brings an additional pressure of public punishment by society. This additional penalty significantly increases his social currency and propels the campaign’s virality as well as Kamil’s image as a progressive leader.

“This, however, poses a risk” said Yanuar who highlighted the potential of negative implications. While this is a commendable and rare gesture in a typical government communication protocol, this also opens way to negative public response as social media is platform that knows no censor. Kamil’s approach so far however has earned him more adoring fans on social media than the critics.

Musician Fadillah Simeray was publicly admonished by Kamil on Instagram in late April when he posted a photo of himself standing on one of the public chairs on Braga Street in Bandung while promoting a shirt. According to local residents, many of the chairs on that particular street had been damaged and the rebellious attitude expressed by Simeray in the picture was only making things worse.

Though Simeray later removed the photo, altered the name of his Instagram account and posted an apology, the Mayor made him do push ups and clean the street as punishment. Moved by the apology, many other Bandung residents sympathized with Simeray and joined the Mayor’s call to help clean the street, launching a campaign through the hashtag #NgepelBraga or mop Braga, on Twitter and Instagram, to participate on Friday, 1 May 2015.

It’s safe to say that the secret of social media success lies partly in socio-behavior knowledge and sensitivity. The internet is a breeding ground for people hungry for self actualization seeking for an outlet and social media presents itself as a channel for these individuals, much like a therapy session. Knowing what makes these people tick may just be the secret to social media success and Kamil’s strategy for public service campaign certainly pressed the right buttons.

Fonnyta Amran is a freelance writer, formerly a travel editor at Female Daily Network. With a passion in traveling and marketing, she previously held a marketing position with Hard Rock Cafe and also at the Singapore Tourism Board in charge of marketing and communication strategies for Indonesia as well as being the editor of STB’s portal, singasik.com.

[header image: Bandung’s public facility ad]

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