Social Media Marketing – Relationship Based or Transactional?


You get a transfer to a nearby town which is a 4 hour drive. You have to move in to the new place with your stuffs as well. You have two options to get your travel arrangements – first would be to hire a professional while the other would be to seek a friends help who’s got a vehicle big enough to transfer your important stuffs.  If you chose the first option, you pay and you contribute to the market economy which is purely transactional. Opting for the second one would again make you contribute to the gift economy which would mean you might treat your friend or may pay for the fuel; you still end up paying but this time it’s more of a relationship based transaction.

Putting this analogy in the context of social media marketing- this form of marketing is more like a gift economy which should be intended more towards cultivating relationships unlike current understanding of making it transactional. Why brands underperform in social media marketing is because they misunderstand social marketing as a transactional tool. The focus is highly on pushing products, buying and not earning status and promotions!

The successful social media campaigns focus on relationships, earning trust in the brand. Brands should follow the gift economy guidelines and not the market economy guidelines. Here’s what they can do to start with-

  • Build and foster relationships – move from the basics to the best – from being pushy to promote transactions to help people build relationships with one another.
  • Earn Status – Let me give you an example – while googling on a keyword, you’d prefer the search results that are on the middle of the page rather than the paid ones on the sides.  These results on the middle of a page are a result of the pages gaining popularity and getting listed- one way of earning status!
  • Focus on Social Currency – transcend from focusing on promotions to creating social currencies. Gift economy focuses on social currency. The treat you gave your friend was a social currency- it fosters relationships.

With these in mind, brands need to empathize with consumers and address what consumer would want from the social media interactions and constantly look at enriching the experience. There’s nothing for brands to loose if they go the gift economy way – and this will result in strengthening the relationship with the consumers.


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