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social currency

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Social currency is the personal assets and attributes of an individual that help them succeed in interactive social channels. The term commonly refers to online social networks, particularly in recent use, but it also refers to real life and the online/physical hybrid environment that is typical of modern life.

The word currency, in a broad sense, refers to anything that can be used as a medium of exchange. In the case of social currency, there is usually no precise monetization and no explicit exchange of assets. The exchange is typically something that occurs naturally and may not be immediately recognized. Although it doesn’t usually involve monetary or even tangible assets, people may capitalize on their social currency through, for example, advertising deals.

Social influence is a prime example of social currency. People can gain influence through various means. They may share content on social media as subject experts, for example, in an engaging way that attracts a following. Followers, in turn, are another example of social currency, and people with larger groups of followers naturally have more influence.

Social currency also includes positive personal attributes that tend to help people succeed in both physical and digital interpersonal environments such as knowledge, status, intelligence, connections, looks, charm and a sense of humour.

The concept of social currency arose from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s social capital theory, which explored the benefits of social cooperation.

This was last updated in July 2019

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