How to Thrive in Social Media’s Gift Economy


How to Thrive in Social Media’s Gift Economy

by Mark Bonchek:

Consider a “gift philosophy” to drive customer engagement on social media.


Social Media operates in a type of economy called “Gift Economy.”  In a market economy, the focus is on transactions, but in a gift economy, the focus is on relationships. A tell-tale sign of a gift economy is that status is earned, rather than bought.

In the Pacific Northwest, native tribes developed the ritual of the “potlatch.” Status was given not to those who had the most wealth, but instead to those who gave the most to the community.

Social media are fundamentally gift economies. People are there to cultivate relationships, not conduct transactions. They exchange social currencies, not financial currencies. Status is earned not bought.

Begin by contributing to the community and earning trust. Over time, you can mint your own social currencies and cultivate a gift economy. As your customers start connecting with each other, you will generate social gravity that pulls customers into orbit around your brand. The result will be a deep connection with your customers that goes beyond our transactional notions of loyalty.

  1. Build Relationships: Help people create relationships with each other
  2. Earn Status: Enable people to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
  3. Create Social Currencies: Create new social currencies related to your brand.

Mark Bonchek is the Founder and CEO (Chief Epiphany Officer) of Shift Thinking. He works with leaders and organizations to update their thinking for a digital age. Learn More

“We live in a time of profound disruption and accelerating change. As leaders, we must shift our thinking and update our mental maps to navigate this new and unfamiliar landscape.”

Mark Bonchek

Shift Thinking