The next time you’re short on cash and in dire need of a bag of Rice Krispies, consider pulling up your Twitter app and paying for one with “social currency.”

The idea of social currency isn’t new, but companies and social media users alike are finding more and more ways to leverage the power of social media platforms for mutual benefit. In other words, companies will often give users a product or service in exchange for, say, a tweet or a Facebook post. Traditionally, this has typically involved web-based products such as a coupon, an e-book or access to an online seminar). But brands are increasingly finding ways to leverage social currency offline.

For example, Kellogg’s (yes, the cereal company) recently opened a pop-up “tweetshop”  in London, where they were giving away free bags of their new line of “Special K Cracker Crisps” in exchange for tweets.  Meanwhile, in South Africa last summer, a Twitter-activated vending machine was set up in Cape Town to disburse iced tea upon receiving tweets with the Hashtag: #tweet4t.

Promotions like these are basically clever ways to essentially pay people (without actually paying them) to help spread the word about a new product, service or event.

While the call to action “to cash in your social currency” is very open and overall quite appealing to the average person, there can be drawbacks to this approach, of course. For example, people are often hesitant to shill for a company by tweeting out their messages unless it’s proven to be for a good cause. Moreover, it’s a good bet that most casual Twitter users really would prefer to not spam their Twitter following.  After all, people’s time and attention is valuable, and there’s an element of trust involved.  Whether friends, family, or otherwise, the people I follow on Twitter I primarily do so because I expect them to not waste my time or attention with banal updates about their breakfast or spammy sales pitches.

You also shouldn’t discount the fact that many people don’t have Twitter accounts, and the majority of those who do don’t check in very regularly. So even if a user has 50,000 followers, it’s likely that at most a couple thousand people would actually see the tweet. By comparison, just about everyone has an email address, so focusing solely on Twitter means you won’t reach as many eyeballs as with email.

Tweets or Facebook posts, of course, aren’t the only way to do this. More often, you’ll see websites giving things away in exchange for users’ email address (ostensibly so the brand can email them marketing pitches in the future).

The difference is essentially one of strategic aims. By soliciting tweets, you’re trying to make something “go viral” and gain exposure. By soliciting emails, you’re trying to generate leads. One focuses exposure. The other focuses on depth. If executed well, both approaches can produce healthy conversion rates. But as demonstrated by some studies done by the blog ubounce (described with infographics), some sort of combination of the two is likely the best approach.

And then, that’s one of the key truths of Dallas Internet marketing. Different platforms can help your company achieve different things. So it’s important to develop a nimble, multifaceted interactive marketing strategy — to try several things, adjust on the fly and always stay ahead of the mainstream curve. Masterlink’s Dallas email marketing and Dallas social media marketing specialists can show you how.