The “Social Trade”

I hope to clearly introduce here a new concept – the “social trade.”

By now, we’ve all heard that what makes social media “different” are such elements as essential two-way dialogues, grassroots-driven growth and that whole “community” element… There have been books all about “social currency,” “social capital,” “digital exchange,” etc. – they have given us this “collaborative” outlook on social media. Not forgetting such essential lessons, I want to now focus back on the end consumer benefits – the “WiiFMs.”

A segment of a social network

Traditionally in commerce, customers have made an exchange. They have exchanged their own goodwill and money to achieve a product or service “experience.” When it comes down to it, do we really, really, really NEED the specific items and brands we buy? Or do we buy based on desire? Do we desire a specific experience we think that product or brand might give us? It is in this realm, the realm of mystique and influence, that social media exists, as well.

In the “social trade,” customers are buying a digital and/or social experience. This can be as understated, or as elaborate, as you can possibly dream. Think badges and the perceived psychological benefits (e.g., Foursquare) and product rewards (i.e., redemptions such as from…
 At a simplified level, what if your product-purchasing was synonymous with the blog you visit regularly? For example, think collectors and hobbyists who might review, comment and share in the same site from which they purchase their niche-interest wares. At a high level, think MMOs and virtual worlds and purchasing within…

All this means that companies, social communities and eCommerce today can supply that great intangible – the “experience mystique” – in unprecedented fashion. Socially-integrated sites today can give a complete story – can build and deliver that mystique – that keeps consumers feeling rewarded and coming back for more. They do it with well-architected content – content becomes both the hook and the deliverable. It becomes that factor of consumer empowerment. Look at websites like and – sure opportunities abound for purchasing, but the social and content hooks are magnetic enough to keep visitors intrigued and coming back for more. They have relevant stories targeted to specific visitors and interests. And the social community aspects on these sites empower visitors to generate their own such targeted rich content to share. I think of them as strategic “retention content communities.”

Want to grab more eyeballs and happy return customers? Retention content communities are the way to go in today’s social trade. 

Have thoughts on what you read or want discussion? Comment & connect!

Jake Aull | | Websites, Marketing, SEO, SocialMedia & Design 
email | 404.259.5550 | @jakeaull |