By Holly Hammersmith, Contributor
Retailers and popular brands are using social media to interact with, engage and keep in touch with their most loyal customers. Social media users can leverage this presence to save big on everyday costs.
Whether you want to find great sales and coupons or want money-saving tips and free giveaways, hashtags can help you find these special offers quickly. While hashtags first gained popularity as a way to search, find and trend topics on Twitter, they are now used on nearly every social media platform, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
"From a money-saving perspective, social media is best used as a way to learn of deals from your favorite brands and retailers as soon as they are posted," said Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor at DealNews.com, a website devoted to the best verified deals available on the web every day.
For flash sales, temporary offers and limited-availability products, the precious minutes between when the sale is posted and when shoppers learn about it can mean the difference between getting a deal and completely missing out, Glaser added. "This becomes even more important during the Black Friday shopping season, when online door busters can sell out almost immediately," he said.
Many brands are using multiple social media platforms, which can give customers more opportunities to learn about how they can save money on their favorite products and services. But each social media network functions differently, so it's important to understand how to use them to get the most benefit.
Facebook: Page Interaction Yields Incentives and Coupons
Retailers frequently use Facebook to share deals with fans who "like" a brand or company's page. Facebook is also a viable medium to find promos and special offers, some of which are exclusive to people who participate in a brand's social media network.
"Patient deal hunters can get some exclusive deals through the social media accounts of brands and retailers," Glaser said. "Businesses are no longer allowed to give incentives in exchange for 'liking' their Facebook pages, but they can still provide incentives for interacting with their page somehow, like taking a quiz or survey."
Disney, for example, has offered movie rewards points on its Facebook page that could be redeemed for toys, tickets, DVDs and more, according to Glaser. And Snickers offered a buy-one-get-one deal via Facebook, he said.
"We do see a lot of food and snack deals, including some freebies, on Facebook," said Glaser. "We even saw a 'best-ever' discount from Virgin America -- 20 percent off -- in exchange for filling out a Facebook form."
Dollar-off coupons are often available through a business's Facebook page. Skincare company Origins, for example, has offered $20 off an in-store purchase of $45 or more, and Sephora offers "Fan Friday" coupons, Glaser added. You can search for Sephora's deals using the hashtag #FanFriday.
Twitter: Valuable Source of Referrals and Last-Minute Deals
When searching Twitter for ways to save money, #flashsale can be useful for finding last-minute deals, as can #dailydeals, Glaser said. "You can also search more generic hashtags like #deals and #sale, but this naturally will yield a broad range of results that may or may not be useful to you."
"We see fewer deals exclusive to Twitter, but American Express often offers credits from $10 to $100 for syncing your AmEx card to your Twitter account, tweeting out a certain AmEx hashtag and then spending a certain amount at participating retailers like Staples, Dell and Zappos," Glaser said.
The best tactic is to follow the brands and money-saving blogs and websites you are interested in so you can have a curated flow of deal announcements sent directly to your feed, he said. If these deals are too much to handle on your personal account, create a secondary account simply for finding deals and shopping, Glaser advised. "This makes it easier to follow a greater number of accounts without overwhelming your daily feed."
How to Use Referral Tweets
Twitter is also an easy and quick medium to get out referral links to a wide audience. Referral links often pay big when one of your followers uses the link to sign up for a service or to purchase a product. Add hashtags to your own referral links such as #FREE #giveaway or #discount.
"Social media is also great for garnering rewards from referral programs," Glaser said. "Airbnb, Amazon Prime, Uber, Dropbox and many other companies all offer some form of credit if you can get your friends to sign up or use the service."
Instagram: Use Hashtags to Find Deals and Giveaways
Instagram is a visual platform but users and brands use hashtags to promote their sales or specials. The bloggers behind TheKrazyCouponLady.com offer tips to use Instagram to save big, like following your favorite brands and then searching deal hashtags such as #BOGO, #giveaway, #friendsandfamilysale and #discounts.
Additionally, Instagram is a great place to participate in contests. Submit your photos and try to save money by winning freebies through contests hosted by boutique and big-name brands. Glaser pointed out that visual platforms like Instagram can be better used to see inventory and offers than scoring exclusive coupons.
Pinterest: Graphics and Tutorials Show How to Save Money
Pinterest is a little bit different from other social media platforms but it still offers money-saving opportunities. "For less time-sensitive deals, a wider range of social media sites are now in play; Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat have all been used to announce deals," Glaser said.
Hashtags are clickable in pin descriptions. Pinterest is big on visuals, so many brands and companies create and maintain boards that offer tips from professionals. You can use hashtags to discover ways to save money either by trying clever hacks or by tackling DIY projects. These money-saving tips aren't limited to arts and crafts projects; even financial services companies offer free financial advice and savings tips in the form of infographics on their boards.
Pinterest, like Instagram, is also a place to find new circulars or catalogs. These platforms are good for entering visually based contests that might award gift cards or free products, Glaser said. Pinterest can also be used to connect with other coupon hunters. By following these bargain hunters on Pinterest and other social media platforms, you can receive a steady stream of deals, he added.
How Social Media Can Improve the Customer Experience
You are already on social media connecting with friends, family and business colleagues. Take your interaction a step further by strategically using your social media networks to find money-saving deals and contests for giveaways. And if you have a legitimate complaint or concern about a product or service, don't underestimate the power of social media in bringing about a resolution to your issue -- and maybe you'll get a credit or coupon as consolation, Glaser said.
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