The importance of social currencies

Social currencies are what make the world go round. No really, they are the fuel that underpins the engines of societies. How we share, barter and trade with social currencies is how we simultaneously glue factions of society together whilst keeping them lubricated and running so things get done.

Social currencies underscore societal activity because humans are conditional—it’s rare to see true altruism. No matter how conscientious someone is, they don’t have unlimited altruism to give out, deep benevolence takes effort which can’t be given without end. Instead, cooperation is built on a cycle of debts and favours whether consciously or not.

Social currencies are at the core of these cycles as they’re mostly comprised through trade of non-financial things (although money can be one of them). However, it’s important to treat social currencies as a model, not the be all and end all, but a model that aids in understanding the nature of the world beyond what most care to imagine.

As you’ll see, social currencies come in all shapes and sizes.

Social Currencies Importance

Types of social currencies

Personal Qualities

First on the list of social currencies are our personal qualities.

Personal qualities run the gamut. Virtually every personality trait and disposition can be a personal quality but of course some are better than others; you want to focus on the ones that confer positive benefit to other people.

Some examples of personal qualities include:

– Leadership

– Ability to listen

– Analytical and problem solving ability

– Planning and coordination

– Persistence

– Loyalty

– Initiative

– Teamwork

– Flexibility

– Creativity

– Patience

– Curiosity

Curiosity and demonstrating real interest in someone is one of the most powerful personal qualities you can possess. Think of how scattered our attention is with the preponderance of stimuli bombarding us from all angles in contemporary society, real sustained interest in another person is becoming rarer. As the infamous Dale Carnegie once championed: “To be interesting, be interested.”

Your personal qualities form the foundation of who you are as an individual. You’ve likely had most if not all of your qualities since you were young and you’ll likely continue to have them until your last breath (you can of course add more with open-mindedness and effort). Therefore in many respects, they are the easiest social currencies you can give away and barter with. They come second nature to you and you’ll ooze the characteristics through your pores in the presence of others.

Many of the characteristics we hold are ones we put on our CVs/resumes yet we fail to consider how useful they can be outside of work environments. Reflect on which ones you have that’ll provide the most bang for buck for someone else you want to connect with.

Social Currencies Qualities


Resources are the physical assets you’re in possession of. For many, the most obvious one will be their place. This doesn’t mean you have to own your own home, you could be a renter with a spare room or couch allowing a valuable contact to stay in your city for a while.

Regardless of whether you hold enough cash to open doors or not, make sure you’ve considered how to put your money into resources that yield multiple returns. There are shrewder ways to allocate even smaller amounts of money. Are you splashing out on a five-star hotel for a weekend or are you using it to go on a life changing vagabonding adventure for a longer period of time? Are you buying a new gaming headset or are you spending the money on an online course that will give you useful skills (see below) for the future?

Another type of resource you don’t want to overlook is any equipment or tools you may have that can come in handy for someone who’s bound to lack them. We all tend to have at least one item that somebody else needs at a random point in time. For instance, I have professional level microphones and an audio interface for a content creator who wants top notch sound engineering. Think about unique items you can offer and lend a potential contact: you might have high-end sports gear like a bicycle or surfboard, creation tech like a professional camera and lens, or even just a toolbox for practical DIY.

Social Currencies Resources


Along with personal qualities, these social currencies are also wide-ranging. A lot of people feel inadequate when made to reflect on their skills but chances are you have more skills in your locker than you realise.

The best way to glean the skills you have including any hidden ones that might go under the radar is by assessing:

1. the skills you use for work (past and present)

2. the skills you use during your recreational/leisure time

That hobby you’ve done on the side for years could be just the skill a gatekeeper is looking for. Similarly, that professional skill that’s second nature to you everyday in the office can become the catalyst to kickstart a collaboration. I’ve been able to use the professional teaching skills I picked up in the past to train and mentor contacts and build solid connections even though that wasn’t my initial intention when I worked in teaching.

Another tip is to ask friends and family what skills they think you possess or what they think you’re good at. As mentioned above, sometimes we don’t know all of our qualities, we walk around life unaware that a niche ability we have could actually be useful for a swath of people out there. If there’s anything the creator economy spearheaded by platforms such as YouTube, Medium and Instagram has shown, it’s that there’s a market for everybody and a way to provide value to an audience, even value that can be monetised. Find your niche abilities and see how you can use them to offer value as social currencies.

If you feel you lack a range of skills, don’t fret—now is the time to acquire some. We live in a fast paced and ever-changing world where what we learn in the lecture halls of universities isn’t sufficient for most jobs. EVERYBODY needs to keep learning new skills or update existing ones. Jobs change and employees need to change with them to stay relevant and skilled. This is why you see the coworker with a first class honours degree still attending a work-related course of some kind—that qualification will yield more dividends from a career perspective than their degree.

Leverage the fantastic range of options the online course industry offers in this day and age. If you work for a company that provides a training and development stipend, see if you can apply it towards a professional qualification that will bolster your credibility, even outside of work.

If you’re open-minded with what skills to acquire, focus on key skills that act as multipliers for other ones first. For example, learning communication and speaking skills or how to write will always come in useful no matter your position because they can be combined with other skills. And don’t underestimate the power that teaching yourself through direct application supplemented with knowledge gathered from books and the internet brings. I learned entire languages and instruments this way and along with showing you’re resourceful, it allows you to direct your learning in the way you want.

Social Currencies Skills

Connections & Access

Connections & access refers to the people you know and the social scenes you’re a part of and can grant someone else entry to. In the same way that you want to join a particular group or get savvy in a scene, someone else might get something out of one of yours.

When you meet a new contact that you’d like to collaborate with or get to know better, think how you could act as an emissary. Be someone who connects likeminded individuals together or ‘matchmakes’ people who could do with each others’ knowledge and skills. The more you do this, the more others will look at you as a social nexus (someone who is a central social figure who’s in the know) and the more likely they’ll reciprocate the social value you offer with value of their own for you.

Don’t forget that the social currencies you possess can grant you access to the upmost flourishing scenes of your time, scenes that are in their Golden Age. These scenes experience more organic growth than others and once you have access to these, you can become a gatekeeper for others to join the scene, further cementing your position as a valuable nexus.

Social Currencies Connections


Last but not least among the types of social currencies is services. In many respects, services is akin to a skill but less about technical knowledge and application and more about offering your time, labour and effort.

Never underestimate the significance that services can have on somebody. They might seem simple and minor in description but few people really go out of their way to make someone’s life easier and so when done this way, they are impactful.

Think of ways that your effort can ease a valuable contact’s day, save them time, and improve their quality of life. This can be as incremental as doing them the odd favour every so often or as intense as becoming their PA on the side. One guy I know basically became a PA to a coach, initially unpaid as a quasi-intern, and is now travelling full time working with him in coaching and receiving all the knowledge the coach has for free. Make yourself invaluable to key people and they’ll treat you as a valuable collaborator in their life before long.

Social Currencies Services


In many ways, social currencies are the lifeblood of societies. Money flows through the economy but societies also require non-financial objects to be shared, bartered and traded to foster stability and progress. Through them, ‘social ledgers’ are developed which create cycles of debts and favours for people to adhere to and build trust towards common purposes.

Social currencies come in all shapes and sizes, from intangible ones such as our personal qualities and characteristics through to the physical assets we own. We can also use our skillsets, connections and services as social currencies to build connections and access scenes we never thought possible.

Find your social currencies and leverage them in your quest to improve your lifestyle design.