The advent of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter has changed the nature of advertising. Not only do companies use these sites to promote themselves with their own ads, but now they also rely on consumers as advertisers. More prevalent than actual ads on the side of my Facebook page are companies telling me to tweet, make a status, or “check in” at their location in order to promote themselves. For instance, I will be going to the Writers Theater and must use the Metra to get there. The Metra now has a deal with the theater that if someone takes a picture of herself riding the train, the box office will reimburse her for her fare.
This practice goes beyond liking a page on Facebook or following something on Twitter to receive information about deals and new products. This puts advertising responsibility on the customers themselves. Typically, in exchange for the free advertising, many companies will offer a prize or discount in return. A frozen yogurt establishment in my hometown offers a chance for a free menu item if you upload a picture to a social media site.
A food blog I frequently read will offer giveaways in a raffle contest, and the more social media outlets you comment on, the more times your name will be entered. This shows how powerful social media is in advertising. When people see something on a site, it sparks their curiosity. Companies would not be using these methods if they weren’t effective. This shows that if a product gains a lot of buzz on a site, it can create interest and increase revenue. I remember a new crepe/gelato restaurant opened during the summer, and I first learned about it by people checking in by connecting to their wifi. They offered a discount on food if people did this, and it was effective. I never would have learned about the new place had they not used social media to their advantage.
I think this method of advertising is a smart business model. It taps into a consumer’s desire to appear “in the know” and share details about their life and provides a discount. The company gets free advertising from real people rather than a created ad. This form of advertising seems to be a win-win situation for everyone involved.