October 10, 2011

Businesses, social media mean deals

It's natural to be a fan of sports teams, movies and celebrities. But did you know that you could score big by being a fan of local businesses?

Many restaurants, resorts, attractions, home-improvement stores, fitness centers and retailers offer special discounts to those who follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

For example, Sprinkles will give you a free cupcake if you're one of the first customers to whisper the secret word or give the solution to a word puzzle. (You'll find the secret word on the company's Facebook pages.)

Sprinkles gives out 50 or more cupcakes a day at each of its 10 locations nationwide, said Charles Nelson, who co-founded the bakery with his wife, Candace. On a recent day, if you whispered "diamond in the sky" to the cashier, you got a free mystery-flavor cupcake topped with a star.

If you're thinking about a jaunt in a private jet, check JetSuite's Facebook page for the "SuiteDeals of the Day." With a deal, you usually pay $499 (some flights are as much as $699) to rent a private jet that seats four. That's as little as $125 per person. There are several caveats: The flights are one-way only, and you must be flexible. The flights typically are for the next day and routes are predetermined by JetSuites. Recent flights included Phoenix to Las Vegas for $499 and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to Los Angeles for $699.

Deals lure customers

Deals and social media are a natural fit, said Jason Jantzen, president of Phoenix Marketing Associates, which specializes in social-media strategies.

"If you have a business (Facebook) page, the only way you're going to get people there is to drive them there," he said.

Deals drive people to the pages.

The strategy has worked for Sprinkles, whose Facebook followers number nearly 300,000. Valley-based YC's Mongolian Grill, which recently offered a free meal to its Facebook fans, saw its number of followers grow to more than 7,000 from 300 because of the promotion.

Businesses benefit in other ways from social-media deals. For JetSuite, deals help their bottom line, marketing director Sara DeLowe said.

"If someone books a flight from Oakland to Denver, and we don't have a plane in Oakland, we have to fly there anyway," she said.

By offering a one-way SuiteDeal to Oakland, the company can recoup some costs plus please customers.

In August, Z'Tejas, known for its Chambord margaritas, offered a promotion enticing customers to try its new drink menu, featuring 16 new selections. Each day, the company posted a special word on its Facebook and Twitter sites. Patrons who said the word at the Scottsdale location got the drink of the day for $2.

The price was right for getting customers to try something new, marketing manager Deborah Topcik said.

It's in the e-mail

Other businesses use e-mail newsletters to reward their customers.

Bead World, whose three Valley locations sell jewelry-making tools and supplies, sends out e-mail blasts that reach 3,000 fans. Those who sign up receive advance notice of sales plus a weekly printable coupon for 40 percent off a single item at any of the company's stores.

The coupons are particularly popular.

"There are people who try to use every single one," said Lezli Goodwin, Bead World's creative director.

The best way to find the deals is to go on the social-media sites, search for your favorite businesses and read through the posts for current deals. Some businesses offer deals the same day each week, making it less time-consuming to check.

by Sue Doerfler The Arizona Republic Oct. 2, 2011 06:01 PM

Businesses, social media mean deals

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