Is your promotional prize enough to get the job done?

Weighing the cost of complimentary or discounted items against the value they serve marketing your business is a tricky business. The “2-for-1 Maine Lobster on Days Ending in ‘y’” special isn’t going to help your bottom line, but you won’t get much out of “Free Pint Glass Rental With Every Beer,” either.

In social media the name of the game is making sure the special is appealing enough to drive customers first to your social media platforms, then to your place of business. With sites like Facebook and Foursquare, communicating with customers is the goal. And that obviously can’t happen without anybody to participate.

Buffalo Wild Wings, a client of ours based in the Dayton, Ohio area, offered six free wings for customers after their first Foursquare check-in. For six weeks the response was minimal. Then the restaurant tried giving away 12 wings. The difference was immediate and dramatic. Participation more than doubled and the impact was felt with larger crowds and more customer interaction.

Variety can also be helpful. Uno Chicago Grill offers its 100,000+ Facebook friends a different special each week as part of a month-long promotion. Fans enter their email address to confirm they are a unique user and obtain that week’s offer – $5 off a high-ticket menu item, for example.

Another factor to consider is the directness of your campaign. The web is a fast-moving, quick-clicking place and your customers – particularly web-savvy ones – may not want to follow you over social media if the reward is a drawing.

Schmidt’s Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, offered a free dessert to new followers on Facebook. Filling out a short form resulted in being instantly emailed a coupon for the cream puff. Right away those folks had an offer in their digital possession and could start thinking about when to stop by for a visit. Gaining entry to a raffle that isn’t decided for days or weeks won’t have the same effect.

What you should take from this is that a willingness to commit to the endeavor is what will determine if you are able to maximize social media. Businesses are vying for the same customers and you’ll need a legitimate carrot to be on their radar.

In retail stores we’re occasionally offered discounts for a piece of clothing in exchange for our email address. We then weigh whether 10 percent off that 3-pack of spanx is worth surrendering our personal information.

Remember that people are offered things all the time.  Make sure to give them a reason for liking your page or checking-in when they arrive. Ask yourself: What’s the value to the customer?



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