THE BLOG

How All Businesses Can Leverage Online Promotions

02/20/2013 01:13 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2013

The Internet has, in many respects, leveled the marketing playing field. Sure, big brands have bigger resources, but every business has a big opportunity to take advantage of growing trends online. I often say that social media is the "great equalizer of our time," and it's just as true for marketers as it is for the average user.

No matter the size of your business, it's always worth evaluating what more you could be doing to motivate and reward consumers online. Promotions have a unique ability to reach specific short-term goals, delivering an instant, measurable result, while entertaining and delighting many at once. According to ExactTarget, promotions are the #1 reason consumers like a brand on Facebook. Your online promotions can create "wow" moments, and if yours bring people closer to your brand or strengthen that emotional connection, then they're more likely to have long-lasting impact.

Before you jump in, your initial step is to understand your marketing goals and the objectives of any promotion. This will guide your strategy and execution. From there, the focus should be on design and on making it shareable. Consider the fact that consumers don't share just because you put something out there. They share something because they find it valuable in some way. Incentivize. When it comes to marketing on the social web, consumers respond best to the brands that offer true value. But "value" doesn't have to mean giving away an iPad. Value is not just the dollar amount, it's what matters most to your customers.

After you've created a shareable, valuable promotion, you can't leave success up to hoping for the best. Remember to use your existing resources--including your online communities, offline assets, and staff--to seed your promotion. Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to gain momentum and ensure results. Consider a paid media buy as well to support the promotion - even a small spend can make a big difference if placed thoughtfully.

It's usually a good idea to access outside resources in order to make the most of your promotions. For Facebook particularly, because of their strict promotions policy, you will need to use a third party app. This is usually where big brands have an advantage; employing services of a developer can be expensive and be well outside the budget of a small business. The truth is, though, you don't need a large budget to take advantage of an amazing app-builder. North Social*, for instance, is small budget friendly, enabling a brand to promote share-worthy sweepstakes and fan-only exclusives affordably. When one family-owned wine-of-the-month club used North Social's Deal Share app, the small business gained 50 new lifelong customers. It just shows that any business is capable of reaping the benefits of a promotion done well.

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The brands that thrive online (as well as offline) are the ones that create an engaging, rewarding experience for their customers. Online promotions are a powerful way to say thank you. Leverage online promotions to build your social media fan base and convert them into loyal customers. With universal practices, the democracy of social media, and affordable apps, no matter what the size of your business is, there's no excuse not to take advantage of online promotions to boost your brand.

*North Social is a client of the author.