Social as Currency

Shantanu Starick: How I Went Two Years Without Spending Any Money from 99U on Vimeo.

Probably way before 2009, when I wrote this post about contribution and connection as the new currency, I wrote somewhere, maybe here, about social as currency — as in social interaction leading to connecting at some level and that being a form of currency.

From connections emerges a certain affinity and interest in the ideas and work of others. People have been bartering services for a long time. We did quite a bit of it back in Italy growing up, and as a spontaneous exchange of services among friends when I was holding monthly events with the Fast Company network.

The live events and online network attracted many solo-preneurs and consultants — bartering was/is a good way to get to know each other while working together, and many of my most treasured relationships hatched within such an open and constructive way to do things. Over time, I continue to be comfortable providing referrals for people I met that way. It is probably one way co-working spaces provide value, in addition to creating a more stimulating environment for members.

I came across this video [via] following a couple of links shared on Twitter and the topic intrigued me:

Creatives are rewarded for being specialized: a wedding photographer makes more money than a just a plain photographer. So why aren't the jack-of-all-trades rewarded? In this 99U talk, photographer Shantanu Starick shares how removing money out of the creative process led to a wider array of jobs and a much more fulfilling freelance career.

Shantanu Starick is an international photographer challenging the way creative professionals work in a modern environment.

In 2012 he started The Pixel Trade project, a photographic journey to all seven continents of the globe. In exchange for life’s basic necessities Starick trades his skills as a professional photographer, reintroducing the bartering system into day-to-day life. No currency, no contracts, only his camera and an eager smile.

It is easy to see how trading skill this way increases creativity — people relax, stop focusing on cost and money for time, and this way, as Starick points out in the video, time stops being a consideration.

In a recent JWT report on The Future of Payments, social gesture as currency is listed among alternatives brands are experimenting with — for example, Carlsberg partnered with bars in Denmark to extend happy hour for drinkers who posted social media photos with the hashtag #HappyBeerTime.

Here's a breakdown of what they found:

Social Currency
My money is on the skill trading version among peers rather than the vanity version brands have been testing. Back to the future in many respects with all this. It reminds me history tends to cycle through.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.