Paying with Likes

Likes – a new kind of money?

Getting people to like stuff on the social media is big business today – and has been it for a while, but maybe this is just the first step in the evolution of ” the economy of likes”.  Next step could be machines where you can use your identity and a digital thumb up to pay for all kind of snacks, access to services, entertainment and most other things you would pay with your coins today

By Frits Ahlefeldt,

illustration of a vending machine where you pay with likes
Pay with likes, vending machine

The like machines are coming, no doubt, but how soon and how fast is still debated and how big a change they will be to the classic coin machines around is still to be seen. But for chocolate craving students and cigarette hungry smokers these “like” machines will be almost impossible to resist, as they stand there filled with tempting, and in the classic money-perspective, free sweets, coffee, magazines, beer etc.

The price will be paid, in a strange new way, with information, both about you, about your habits, about your friends, your movement patterns and your preferences – and how easily you are tempted. Information that other companies selling more expensive and longer lasting products will find very useful to target and laser lock products on your profile.

Could a “like index” be the center of a new economy?

An economy already more or less in place, with big players like Facebook etc. building up this structure of tomorrow’s new logic of what it will mean to be “rich”, in a (not all new) way where influence and value is used to estimate any individuals value in a new kind of “social media” index. An index that is used to individualize prices and weave shopping and gamification into one for the users

For the student on the station in front of the machine, having a high index value, hard earned through many hours of nursing followers, and creating status updates and funny content, can then and there be exchanged directly into chocolate or coke cans, using a simple exchange rate, based on how high that student score on the social value index.

And there is no reason this system would be limited to the machines. The same system would work in the local supermarket, in the airport, in the gym. Anywhere where people buy services and products. But it would mean a huge difference from how  (consumer) pricing is mostly made today.

Buying with likes

Tomorrow, in a digital world, your index value would then either make more and more products and services available to you for less, or even for free, if you scored very high in the global social index (ex. if you where Royal, Justin Biber or in other ways among the 1% most popular) But the same system would make the exact same services and products more and more expensive for you if you had a low or even negative index value – as estimated by who-ever did that calculation on a global and local scale for the brands offering services to customers.

I wonder what that would mean to how wealth would be distributed, in one way it could make talented social media freaks ride on a wave of free everything. And less popular, maybe more introverted types pay much more for their products. (as they where sponsoring the free use) At the same time this index value would/could  somehow be used to estimate and create a new hierarchy based on likes and visibility in social media, not only when shopping, but also when choosing a spouse, a president or when choosing between applications for job positions.

Could this logic make social media “likes” into the coins of tomorrow?  Like you throw coins in the hat of a street musician, instead you would hand over a like, that could then be used – like coins, in shops and in tomorrow’s vending machines of all kinds and scales?

Drawing and text By Frits Ahlefeldt,

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