Friday, April 22, 2011

Groupon Coupons - What *Is* The Deal?

Via Small Biz Trends (read the article)

Gawker came up with an article about a Groupon “backlash” –Groupon writers saying that it’s a terrible place to work for and merchants saying they were pressured into offering coupons with one business owner claiming he lost his business over Groupon coupons. This is certainly scary talk and a possible social media damage project for Groupon, but what’s it got to do with you and your small nonprofit?

Groupon is Social Media

They offer deals to the public and those deals show up in your email box. I get them, and the reason I get them is that friends of mine talked about the deals they got. They talked about them on Facebook and Twitter. And they didn’t just talk about them when they got the coupon, they spread the word about coupons they might be using, coupons they had used, and the experience they had at the place or with the service/product they got with the coupon. All using social media. In my local area I heard about restaurants, massages and hot tubs, printer supplies and even ice cream. It felt like I was missing out on something. So I signed up. And so have thousands of others.

This Could Be You

What if your small nonprofit  offered a discount coupon through Groupon – for a lowered price of admission, a two-for-one in the online store, something else related to your mission and the people that mission serves. Could it bring in new faces, add new names to the email list, help you with your branding? Yes. Definitely. And there are probably more than a few nonprofits that have realized this and taken the leap. Should you?

I’m not going to get into whether or not Groupon is an angel or a devil in disguise. The Gawker article seemed to come down squarely on the devil side, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a writer took a viewpoint and ran with it. (I suggest giving the comments a thorough read as well.) But as with Foursquare and other location-based applications, the ability to bring in “new business” is attractive, and Groupon clones are probably already taking up residence in your locality. So here’s what you want to consider when pondering whether or not to hoist your small nonprofit onto the coupon or geo-location, or any other trendy tool bandwagon:
  • What am I using the coupon to do?
  • What metrics do I plan to use to determine whether or not it was a success?
  • What are the consequences if it fails/succeeds?
  • Have I done the math (so I know what the real cost is)?
  • How will I train staff in how to respond?

Using a tool like Groupon is definitely a look-before-you-leap value proposition.  Like any other incentive, it has potential for both good and bad, depending on how and why it’s used. One thing it definitely is not, and that’s a quick-fix tool for small businesses – or nonprofits – in trouble.

For more professional opinions on the Gawker article, see this Linked-In thread (note: requires a Linked In account, membership in LinkedIn Santa Cruz).

Social Media Tool of the Week – Brass Tack Thinking

This isn’t really a Social Media tool, but I tend to view it as that because the thinking is so good. I love the way Amber Naslund and Tamsen McMahon think and write. I get their posts via email so I’ve never commented on-site. Most times I don’t feel the need to (which doesn’t happen often to me), because I find myself nodding in agreement while reading. The best part for me is that I’m usually still thinking about the post after I’ve moved on to other mail in my inbox.  And the post this week seems to echo that thought for me.

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