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Hoard, Spend or Barter?

August 1, 2011

For some time now we’ve been talking about the unwillingness of companies to spend their cash for purposes of expansion, hiring and job creation to get the economy moving again.  Theories abound for the reasons: companies want flexibility in uncertain times, they’re fearful of increasing labor costs due to healthcare reform and other regulatory changes, and both large and small companies lack confidence in the long-term picture for business and economic recovery and stability.  So they’re sitting on their cash.  Hoarding it. Secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) storing valuables and saving them up for future use.

Now not every business is hoarding cash.  There are some who are expanding, growing, and keeping the economy thrumming along by paying for equipment or capital expenditures – not labor.  But in their little corner of the economy they ARE spending.  Not necessarily getting people back to work, but purchasing things nonetheless.

And there still other organizations indulging in the historical practice of bartering – exchanging goods or services for OTHER goods or services.  No money needed.  “You design a new logo for my tax service business and I’ll prepare your 1040 for you next year.”   That sort of thing.


Lots of individuals (and obviously brands) interacting in the social media sphere do so with a goal or desire to monetize the time they spend.  And that’s all well and good for those for whom that’s a driving and compelling reason to be active on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and (sigh) Google+. We’re in a capitalist society after all – and hey – it’s OK to have a desire to earn.  Be an earner.

But … in your social media relationships and online interactions are you hoarding?  Spending? Bartering?  And which do you want to be doing?

SM Hoarding – you gather followers, ‘likes’ and +1s to sustain you.  More is better, right?  So you gather and collect and store them.  You use nifty follow-tools and build your twitter following.  You pimp out your Facebook page and gather friends or fans at alarming speed.  You share content on any platform you can – over and over and over.   But once you build your social media fortune, you lock it away and keep it hidden.  You push out content without the conversation or the engagement.  You’re a hoarder.

SM Spending – you operate with caution and a sense of purpose.  You understand that social media currency is all about the relationships, the information and the connections.  You stay involved at the pace that’s right for you with a goal of growth and sustainability to leverage long-term results.  You’re not one of those crazy early adopters out there – life is too uncertain.  I mean Google+?  No thanks; you’ll wait until you’re confident it will be worth your time.  So you move along at a nice comfortable pace – content with your level of engagement, because you DO talk to your social networks, but not really seeing the need to expand it out.  Right?  You’re a spender.

SM Bartering – you share with others.  You’re active in the channels that are right for you and you interact online and move the conversations offline.  You believe that the time you spend and the interactions you have will benefit you with a return that may not be measurable or something you can label as ROI.  And that’s OK.  Does it need to be measured anyway….?


Bartering, as a term, puts a capitalist connotation onto a practice that, at the end of the day, is really all about building and sustaining relationships.  Aren’t human beings wired to help their fellow humans merely for the sake of assisting them?  Isn’t there value in meeting, talking and then connecting people to each other?  If Joe needs a pair of shoes, I don’t have an extra pair, but if I know that Dan does have an extra pair … why wouldn’t I get them in touch with each other?

My grandpa ran a small business a half-century ago.  As a butcher/shopkeeper he needed to make a profit to support his family, so he wisely spent money to make money.  But he also spent and bartered his social currency by interacting with folks in his neighborhood, in his church and in other social circles. He did for others … others did for him.

And the results were priceless.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2011 9:31 am

    Great post – love the “tags” you’ve given these behaviours. Personally I like to barter, and it was Jay Kuhns RTing this blog which brought me here so I guess that helps to prove it eh?

    Hoarding is not for me. I try and make my way in life with enough to get buy, and a little put aside for rainy days. The rest – I don’t really need it so sharing is better. Drives my darling wife a bit nuts sometimes but I like giving, and reciprocity and sharing stuff. It’s fun.

    Thanks for a good read today 🙂

  2. August 1, 2011 12:09 pm

    I agree with Doug–interesting way of framing the behaviors. One additional point–both spending and bartering well help increase social capital; it creates a virtuous cycle. This of course occurs with financial capital too, but probably more dramatically with social capital.

  3. August 3, 2011 8:10 am

    Just saw this today thanks to Carnival of HR. Such an great analogy, Robin! I basically think I’m in barter mode, but I know many others who are not. It’s all about our choices in the end, isn’t it?

  4. August 6, 2011 10:02 am

    I like the comparison of hoarding to spending to bartering. The people who mostly hoard seem like the ego maniacs that satisfy their own needs by building followers and friends. These type give the online world a bad reputation.

    I find that when I connect offline with the spending and bartering type of people we already have some trusted groundwork to take our relationships deeper. I have been able to get to know someone even better after knowing more about them online. Let’s face it we get busy and do not have the time to connect in person with everyone. So you connect on line and use those online interactions to drive your conversations in person.

    However, this can get tough when you have many followers or friends. Sites like Fb, Twitter and LinkedIn can make it tough to have deep connections with everyone. The natural bartering type of person will want to connect with all of their friends and followers. That is an impossible expectation. Based on limited time and energy you have various levels of engagement with online connections. However, keeping your online door open for business will help you capture new interactions that can build your online currency. Great post Robin. It got me thinking differently about this topic.


  1. HR Soot » Blog Archive » Carnival of HR: Online Social Currency Edition

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