Social Media Users Turning Popularity into Currency

Earlier this week, I caught a CBS this Morning story that took a close look at the much buzzed-about trend of Instagram food photography.

The story noted that some savvy local business marketers are helping avid social media users turn their cuisine photo sharing hobby into “social currency” through freebies and discounts in return for geo-tagged photos at their establishments. For example, Bang Bang Pie Shop in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood is giving free baked goods to customers with more than 500 Instagram followers who take geo-tagged photos of food at their restaurant.

I think this is really creative and innovative way for local businesses to make a big impact with very few resources. Through little effort on their part, businesses are encourging customers to spread the word about their offerings through their own networks. As research has told us, consumers place high trust in their personal connections, so any reference from them is golden.

A Chicago-based startup is helping to increase this trend by connecting popular social media users to local businesses looking to market themselves through word-of-mouth. Popular Pays is an app that gives users with “online influence real world value” by allowing them to swap a piece of their social media presence for free items or discounts.

Unique approaches like these are enabling local businesses make a big impact on a very targeted scale. But the question remains, are these programs a good idea, or a bit too unorthodox?

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