Spotlight: Microsofts #100Aires Pay-by-tweet Gallery

100AiresLast week, to promote the recently-launched Lumia 630 smartphone, Microsoft opened a pop-up art gallery at the Old Truman Brewery, just off Brick Lane. This being East London, pop-ups are hardly unusual, but the #100Aires gallery came with an interesting twist that caught our eye.

To push the entry-level pricing of the Lumia 630, each of the 100 pieces of art on show could be taken home without spending a penny. Instead, visitors paid for their selected piece with a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

This isnt the first time a brand has tried to leverage the concept of social currency in this way. In May, Birds Eye set up a temporary restaurant which served a free meal to anyone who posted a picture of the food, a sample of the brands latest range, to Instagram.

Even more intriguingly, though, the #100Aires gallery used social currency to set up a virtual auction.

This was achieved through a partnership with social media analytics firm Klout, which was acquired by Lithium Technologies back in March for a reported $200m (£117m). Klout assigns a score out of 100 to any denizen of a social network, based on how influential they are. This doesnt necessarily mean their follower count, but rather how often content is reposted, liked or shared, combined with information pulled from search engines and Wikipedia, if available. So, for example, Barack Obamas official account racks up a mighty 99 points, leaving my own rating of 41 in the dust.

At the #100Aires gallery, each piece of art was assigned a price band corresponding to a Klout score. While everyone could bid on some of the pieces, certain items were only available to the most influential.

Once theyve picked out a piece thats within their virtual price range, visitors snap a picture and share to the social network of their choice tagged with #100Aires and a hashtag corresponding to each piece of art.

Its a great way of turning members of the public into social advocates of a brand – in this case, indirectly, as no Microsoft branding was attached to the posts – but there are some vital limitations.

While users were encouraged to share through any channel that suited them – Klout scores can pull data from eight different social networks – all bids had to pass through Twitter to be counted. This is because Facebook and particularly Instagram are closed networks, where not everything is visible to outsiders.

Its also worth noting that the process requires a hefty amount of labour. After the fact, the bids had to be managed using the Mass Relevance social media management platform. Each tweet was separated out by the relevant pieces hashtag, then filtered down to users with the prerequisite Klout score, and manually sorted by user interactions to decide a winning bid – 100 times over.

The social currency concept is fascinating, and we doubt this is the last time well see a brand experimenting with it. For now, though, its hard to imagine a brand applying the idea on a significantly larger scale, and this iteration does feel strictly experimental.