Note: This article was originally published on Open Forum.
Facebook Deals, Groupon Stores, Foursquare, Gowalla — small business owners can take their pick when it comes to advertising through social media. It takes more than signing up on a few sites to pull in the dough, however.
Savvy retailers know how to use social media tools to their advantage while avoiding the potential pitfalls.
Make sure you’re being smart about how you advertise by not making these errors:
Making Rewards Too Difficult for Customers to Earn
Let’s say you own a hair salon and decide to offer a discount to the person who “checks in” the most often at your shop by a certain date. Word spreads quickly and before you know it, someone has won the coupon and that person continues to be your most frequent customer. The problem is no one else can beat that person for the reward.
If you have a business that requires foot traffic, advertising deals to your most loyal customers can be a useful tool. However, if you make it too difficult for others to earn that reward, they might just go to another salon. A smarter approach would be to offer a variety of ways for customers to win rewards, such as by checking in a certain number of times or by fulfilling other conditions. Here are some suggestions from Foursquare and Facebook Deals:
- Check-in Specials: when a user checks into your venue a certain number of times, e.g., “Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”
- Friend Deal: offering discounts to groups of people when they check in together.
- Charity Deal: create a Charity Deal to make a donation to the charity of yours or the customer’s choice.
- Wildcard Specials: requiring your staff to verify some extra conditions, such as customers showing a badge on their smartphone before receiving the special discount.
Failing to Offer the Right Rewards
Perhaps you opened a diner but it’s in a remote location. You decide to reach out to your local community by offering special deals on Foursquare but the response has been minimal. What did you do wrong? Foursquare recently introduced a tool that allows businesses to customise their deals according to a range of real-time data about their venue and their customers. The stats include the number of unique visitors who checked into a place via Foursquare, the time customers arrived, the male-to-female ratio and which times of day are more active for certain patrons. Business owners can also offer instant promotions to try to engage new customers and keep current ones. Not all social media sites offer this feature. For other ideas on how to gauge your customers’ preferences, see the next point.
Not Addressing Customers’ Complaints
Ignore customers’ comments at your own risk. The arrest of Vitaly Borker, owner of DecorMyEyes, is an extreme example of what can go wrong when customers are mistreated. “When people can openly talk with, about, and around you, screwing them is no longer a valid business strategy,” said Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? Rather than ignore or attempt to hide your customers’ complaints, engage them through a blog or Twitter account. Dell learned its lesson and now offers IdeaStorm, a site that lets customers discuss and vote on ways for Dell to improve its products and services. Starbucks offers a similar approach called My Starbucks Idea on a website and Twitter.
Figuring out what works best for your company can take some time, but with creativity and research, the benefits can be worthwhile.
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