With the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) having recently announced new guidelines for running promotions on Facebook, here Coupons.com suggests five key strategies to help FMCG brands that want to engage their customers through social media coupons. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The company has refined these strategies in the UK working with FMCG brands such as Procter & Gamble, McCain Foods, Nestle, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson and L'Oreal, along with supermarkets Tesco, Waitrose & The Co-operative Food. The top five social couponing techniques are as follows:

  1. Designing a successful campaign from the outset
    When planning your campaign, speak to a specialist digital coupon service provider who can assess whether couponing via your preferred social channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube) is suitable for your brand and will deliver your objectives. Such a provider will be able to advise what the essential criteria are for a successful coupon promotion. For example, the product may have insufficient distribution across the retail trade, meaning customers have little chance of being able to easily redeem the offer and the promotion is flawed before it starts.

    Alternatively, if the brand personality, values or campaign messaging do not translate well across social media, then a different approach may be more appropriate. In addition, a specialist provider will be able to give comprehensive advice on the design of the campaign, to ensure that it complies with UK Law, the CAP Code (the rules which govern advertising and marketing communications in the UK) and any other relevant codes, such as Facebook's own rules, which also require brands to comply with local laws and regulations.

  2. Controlled Coupon Distribution
    The sheer scale of an audience across Social Media is a major draw for brands looking at running marketing promotions. However, this same audience, when combined with speed of social communication presents inherent challenges for brands that have limited coupon budgets to adhere to. To avoid potentially unwelcome overspend, it's imperative that brands distribute coupon offers in a secure and controlled manner and limit their redemption exposure in line with their ROI projections and available budget.

    Without stringent distribution controls, brands may also be subject to the wider ramifications of unsecure coupon distribution, such as unsecure coupons being returned by retailers, customers being rejected in-store and badly executed promotions being flagged to store head office buyers. However, with a secure coupon promotion in place, brands can leverage their social media promotion across multiple channels, including their website, other social channels, media, and direct marketing, in order to truly harness the buzz and sharing benefits associated with social media without the worry or financial risks.

  3. Make sure your promotion caters for all users
    Lack of access to promotions can invite disappointed consumers to make negative noise. In January 2013, Facebook announced that, for the first time, the number of active daily visitors checking Facebook on mobile devices was higher than the number of people checking the social network on the web. Similarly, according to Twitter, 60% of its users connect with mobile devices. In addition to the increasing importance of mobile, some consumers may not have easy access to a working printer.

    To overcome this, brands should ensure that their social coupon promotions Coupons.com provide customers with the option to receive their coupon by post if requested, or in the case of mobile users to have the coupon emailed. It comes down to good old customer service and with the natural tendency for consumers to vent their grievances publicly when using social media, in many instances going the extra mile pays off.

  4. Evaluating Performance
    Ensure your social media coupon promotion has clear tools in place to accurately track the total coupons printed (different to consumers given the opportunity to print) all the way through to coupons redeemed in-store. This level of transparency is essential for controlling your campaign as well appraising its performance.

    This sounds quite basic, but a quick scan of some poorly executed coupon promotions currently being run on Facebook shows that some FMCG brands have neither of these areas covered. For example, a PDF coupon can be saved, printed and redeemed as many times as a consumer desires, not to mention being shared online and posted to forums such as freebies websites. Often the first the brand will know about this is when the redemption statement arrives from the clearing house. You need to track and control every single coupon issued.

  5. Engaging and Creative Promotions
    While it's often the most simply executed social promotions that perform the best, brands are getting increasingly more ambitious and sophisticated when coming up with new and creative ways to engage consumers and influencing their path to purchase through the use of coupons and vouchers. For example, one Tesco promotion got people talking about Tesco in the run up to Easter by inviting players to explore their streets with Google Street View to find virtual Easter eggs. Successful winners won prizes such as coupons to redeem against a chocolate bunny online or in-store.

    As FMCG brands continue to test and learn from social media promotions, creativity within coupon promotion is to be sought and indeed advocated, as long as this is not to the detriment of getting the basics right.