Facebook Coupons: Money in the Bank?

09/13/2011 11:23 am ET | Updated Nov 13, 2011

Marketing Situation: Could coupons shared via Facebook add a powerful dimension to your marketing programs? This intriguing case study from Social Media Jungle, which profiles an online loyalty program from the specialty ice cream producer and retailer Cold Stone Creamery, suggests that the answer could be "yes" -- if.

As In: If you listen to your customers, if you create engaging content that motivates people to opt in, and if you can identify a compelling program that will engage online fans. If you can do that, you may be able to pull off what Cold Stone Creamery did: dramatically higher redemption rates (14 percent vs. 0.2 percent) at dramatically lower costs per redemption ($0.39 vs. $3.60).

Questions to Consider: Do your best customers have the opportunity to "like" your company, product, service or brand via a Facebook page? Could you leverage that interest with a targeted eGift campaign, enabling a fan of your page to send a discounted present to someone in his or her network?

Four recommended actions:The four best practices Cold Stone Creamery followed appear below.

  1. Create a strong reciprocal value exchange. By "liking" the company's Facebook page, customers and prospective customers receive a stream of engaging, regularly updated content. Over 1.6 million people now follow Cold Stone Creamery on Facebook.

  • Listen to your fans. The initial idea for an online coupon campaign came from Cold Stone Creamery fans.
  • Give Facebook users a simple, memorable way to interact with each other. If Jack sees that his friend Maria is having a difficult day, he can send her an online coupon for Cold Stone Creamery ice cream from the company's fan page. A staggering 14 percent of those encountering the offer redeemed the coupon, as compared with 0.2 percent of previous online coupon campaigns. The low-cost campaign generated $10,000 in incremental sales.
  • Make online friends look good. Jack's thoughtful gift to Maria shows up in Maria's News Feed, which means Maria's whole network of Facebook friends sees it. The coupon campaign generated 66,000 new fans for Cold Stone Creamery in just eight weeks.
  • The Takeaway for Marketers: Consider building a loyalty program on Facebook that is based on a strong reciprocal value exchange, that gives users the opportunity to send a memorable gift, and that makes the sender of that gift look good.