Social Media Techniques to Help Customers Brag About Your Business

If your business sells anything online, don’t overlook a valuable opportunity to help your customers brag about their purchases to their social networks.

You can help your satisfied customers give insider discounts to their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or elsewhere to generate more purchases. Thanks to the arithmetic of social media, a single sale could trigger a ripple effect of future sales, with little effort on your part.

To do this, businesses can include buttons on their websites that allow users to share the content with their Facebook and Twitter networks. Blog services such as Blogger and WordPress, for instance, make it very easy to add these social media buttons.

In addition, when people are using your site to buy your product, book a room at your inn, or schedule a house cleaning, for example, they should be able to announce it to their entire social network directly from your website. It’s like giving your customers bragging rights on steroids.

When customers get a good deal on a new TV or find the perfect pair of jeans, they like to share the news. Pressing the “Like” button and announcing to their social network “Monday Night Football at my house; Local Town Appliance just delivered my new HD-TV!” spreads the word fast.

Eager to Share

Experts point out that people are already sharing their lives online, primarily through their Facebook accounts. Research shows 40 to 50 percent of U.S. residents now have Facebook accounts, and the average user has 130 Facebook friends. They use the network to share what they are doing, watching, reading, eating, and, increasingly, what they are buying.

Some innovative companies are taking this online customer sharing a step further. As soon as an online sale is complete, they give their customers an exclusive discount to share with their Facebook and Twitter networks. And when any of those online friends use the discount, the original customer is rewarded with a discount as well.

San Francisco-based DODOcase, which sells handmade cases for Apple iPads, has used this sales technique to great success. The company uses a post-purchase referral system by Curebit, which thanks customers for their online purchases with a 10 percent discount coupon to give to their friends on Facebook and Twitter. The coupon is valid for 10 days; if it is used, the original customer also gets 10 percent off his or her original purchase. Curebit’s tracking shows that more than half the company’s online customers share the coupon. Of the new sales that come from the shared coupon, about half are from Facebook and one-fourth from Twitter. The rest are from email, according to data from Curebit.

Whether your business can offer special deals to thank customers for bragging to their friends will depend on your product and your budget, but at the very least you should make the bragging convenient. You’ve worked hard to make your customers happy; why not make it easy for them to share their happiness?

Business journalist Joan Voight covers marketing, social media, and technology for MediaPost Publications, ClickZ, and other publications. Previously she was the editor of two West Coast business magazines aimed at small and midsize companies.