It’s no secret that social channels are a great way for companies to increase exposure and build customer relationships. By simply setting up a Facebook page, companies can build a following of loyal customers and expand their reach to potential customers. To encourage customers to “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, companies started to offer exclusive offers and discounts. It became common to see ads such as “20% off if you fan us on Facebook” and made many customers join these social networks just to get the deals and never actually interact with the company.
As shoppers become more accustomed to seeing their favorite companies on different social channels, these companies will need to get more creative with how they capture their customer’s, and potential customer’s, attention and pocketbook.
One unique way approach for connecting businesses with consumers is FourSquare. FourSquare is a social network that encourages users to “check-in” when they visit different locations, including businesses. For the most part, this check-in was prompted strictly by the user’s desire to note their location, either for themselves or friends, and earn badges for checking in multiple times. To help entice customers to check in, businesses could also have special coupons or offers based on how many times someone checked-in, such as giving away a free drink with lunch. This concept of checking-in has helped businesses build their customer loyalty and helped to ensure that they are top of mind the next time a user is deciding where to go for lunch.
At the 2011 SXSW Conference in Austin, FourSquare and American Express decided to take this idea a step further. When FourSquare users checked-in to certain locations in Austin, American Express offered them a reward (such as $5 off a sandwich) that was automatically credited to their American Express card, if said card was used to make the purchase. This is a creative way to not only increase business at the restaurant by offering the deal but also to make sure that consumers choose to use their American Express while making the purchase.
Expanding on this idea, BillShrink also recently announced some mobile and social enhancements to their StatementRewards product. Using the StatementRewards mobile app, users will be shown rewards based on their proximity to retailers and past purchases. Once they select a reward, they can share their reward, savings or status level with their social network by tweeting it or posting it as a status. To incentivize this action, banks or retailers can thank these users with offers that further enhance their rewards. One example might be a bank offering 100 rewards points if a user tweets how much the bank helped them save at Target – benefiting the bank, merchant and the consumer. This type of rewards strategy is more focused on getting their current users to actively help promote them, allowing for a greater reach into their social networks.
Another creative rewards system is through games on Facebook. Facebook games have become an increasingly popular way for users to spend both time and money on Facebook. Many of the games have their own currencies associated with them, which players can actually spend real money to get. One unique way businesses target these players – who are already willing to spend money – is to show them special offers as an alternative way to purchase the currency. Rather than use a credit card or Facebook credits, users can opt to buy something from a participating retailer. For example, last Mother’s Day, one game allowed players to purchase flowers from ProFlowers to earn them gold for the game (and brownie points from their mothers). This was great advertising for ProFlowers and exposed the deal to a group of people who were already looking to purchase.
With the popularity of sites like Groupon, it is obvious that consumers love to save money and take advantage of exclusive deals. However, many are becoming numb to traditional offers and the value of a fan/follower is dropping. Businesses should look for new ways to take advantage of their social networks and give their loyal customers a reason to spread the good word about their company.