Contagious: Social Currency

Contagious: Social Currency

Our reading and reviewing of Contagious begins with the principle of Social Currency. Berger starts the chapter with the story about two friends who open a hot dog restaurant business. While it was succesful, the friends wanted to do something more, especially with their liquor license. But with so many bars in New York City, they wanted to stand out.

So what did they do? They bought the struggling tea business next to their restaurant and opened a secret bar. Yes, a secret bar.To get to it, you need to enter the restaurant, go to a phone booth with a 1930s antique phone and dial 2. When someone answers, they’ll ask if you have a reservation. Even if you don’t, they will probably take you in. Suddenly, the booth swings open revealing a secret door and you’re transported into Please Don’t Tell.

Without any advertising whatsoever, Please Don’t Tell is one of the hottest bars in New York City.


“In case it’s not already clear, here’s a little secret about secrets: they stend to not stay secret very long.” Berger explains; “People share things that make them look good to others.”

“Word of mouth, then is a prime too for making a good impression…Think of it as a kind of currency. Social currency. Just as people use money to buy products or services, they use social currency to achieve desired positive impressions among their families, friends, and colleagues.”

In essence, people like to share things that will make them look good in front of others. We all wanted to be respected, admired, or liked. Even if you say, “No I was just being funny.” Well, you were being funny for a reason. You want people to think that you’re clever, or witty because you want them to like you.

But how can a business use social currency? Berger says that a business should “give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting their products and ideas along the way.”

There are three ways to do that:

  1. Find inner remarkability
  2. Leverage Game Mechanics
  3. Make people feel like insiders

For the next blog post, we will be looking at “Finding Inner Remarkability” in-depth.


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