social media how toLooking to build your customer base and keep people coming back for more?

The answer is to reward your customers.Want to know how? Keep reading…

Why Rewards?

It’s easy to see that social media and other digital technologies are making a huge difference in the way brands interact with customers and how customers perceive a brand’s image.

With so many new business owners testing the waters of social media, it can be easy to forget what our focus should be. Just like any business situation, the customer should be our first priority, always.

Social media is another great way to drive traffic to your website, people into your stores, and ultimately, money into your bank account. One of the best ways to grow your customer base is to reward them.

Social media and online communities are the perfect playing fields for a customer rewards scheme, and can offer new possibilities to business owners in any field. Let’s take a look at six ways you can reward your customers online.

#1: All the world’s a game—stickers, badges and pins

Commonly seen on “check-in” applications like Foursquare, GetGlue and Gowalla, collectible stickers, badges, pins, medals, stamps, items or trophies add a game-like competition to the user experience.

Not only does this create an urge to collect all the items available, but also a competitive spirit is aroused, as users compete against friends (and “enemies”) to collect more items, more quickly.

As evidenced by Foursquare, users flocked to the location-based app because of the appeal it held by using a leaderboard and creating competition among its user base.


Stickers make a great collectible reward for customers. Photo: GetGlue

How can you use this strategy?

Depending on the size of your customer base, you may want to start your own collecting competition—stickers or digital stamps are cheap and easy to acquire, and if you take the time and effort to design rewards for specific user actions, the “game” becomes more challenging and more interesting.

This strategy is perfect for businesses that thrive on frequent repeat purchases. It could be used to reward repeat purchases, similar to the idea of “buy 5 coffees, get 1 free” you might see at your local café, or to reward customers for recommending friends to your business.

For smaller businesses, jumping on board with an established brand dealing in collectible rewards may be the best way to go. Many small- and medium-sized businesses have started promoting their physical stores as Foursquare check-in points, and many better-known brands now offer exclusive stickers to collect using GetGlue.

The more possible ways a customer can interact with your products, services or staff, the more opportunities you have for developing an engaging, collectible reward system using either of these methods.

#2: Digital discounts: Online-only offers

With discount sites like Groupon growing in popularity, consumers are not only hungry for discounts, but they’re beginning to expect them. Offering discounts, exclusive offers and coupons is nothing new, but focusing this effort on your online audience is a fairly recent idea.


You can choose what you want to offer, the discount you want to give and how long you want the deal to last.

How can you use this strategy?

Whether you’re looking to reward the online customers you already have, or increase the size of your online customer base (or, more likely, both), discounts and special deals that are exclusively available online is a great approach.

You may want to offer coupon codes for a discount in your physical store, which users can print from your website, which will drive traffic to your site and sales to your store. Or you could offer regular discounts or special offers to your email subscriber list. This will encourage new customers to sign up, and give you a bigger and more receptive customer base to send news and information to.

To make this process simpler, you might like to sign up with Groupon or a similar service to offer a special deal to your customers. However, remember that you need to find out where your customers spend their time online before you start, so you can meet them on “their turf,” and reach more people.

#3: And the winner is… Content-creation competitions

Competitions are another tried-and-true way of engaging new customers and rewarding existing consumers. While giving away free prizes can be a great way to reward your customers, content-creation competitions have recently become a popular way for brands to use social media and digital technology to involve consumers, while achieving free publicity.

Any competition that requires a user to create content of some kind in order to enter is a ripe opportunity for brand publicity. A recent example is Microsoft’s Cannes 2011 competition, which required users to create “an entertaining and engaging 60- to 90-second film that shows how a Windows 7 PC is at the core of a student’s life.” This is an obvious example of a competition that led to user-created content promoting the brand and one of its main products.


The grand prize winner received $8,000 in cash and a trip for two to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival in France.

How can you use this strategy?

A great prize will encourage people to enter a competition, but it’s also true that the majority of online customers are content consumers, not creators. Therefore, to have a content-creation competition be successful, the prize needs to be more impressive to encourage more effort from users. The Microsoft competition offered thousands of dollars in prize money, as well as a trip to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and a meeting with Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg.

For smaller businesses that don’t have film stars and international flights handy, giving away free products or services may be enough to encourage consumers to make a short video or take a picture, and ask their friends to vote for them.

#4: Say cheese: Involving your customers in advertising and promotions

Another great way to get customers involved in promoting your brand is to directly involve them in your advertising.

Doritos has a great example of a successful campaign called Make an Ad, Make a Fortune, where users created a commercial for Doritos corn chips, with the most popular commercial (voted on by the public) broadcast on prime-time television.


This is the second year that Doritos has handed creative control over to the Australian public to come up with the next TV ad for Doritos.

Another great example is the Vauxhall Corsa billboard competition that ran through a Facebook application. The winning design was professionally painted onto a London billboard, advertising the car.


Graffiti billboard for the Vauxhall Corsa designed by the Facebook competition winner.

How can you use this strategy?

Whether it’s as a billboard designer, a spokesperson in a television or radio commercial or a model for your poster advertisement, offering customers their own “15 minutes of fame” is sure to be just reward for their efforts in promoting your brand.

Ensure that you make the requirements clear and simple and encourage customers to involve their friends to grow your customer base. Choosing a winner based on the most votes received online is a great way to encourage word to spread about your competition, and ultimately, your brand.

#5: Hand ’em over: Collecting suggestions and ideas

Starbucks is a brand that immediately comes to mind when thinking about businesses that have succeeded in showing customers that their ideas are truly appreciated.

“My Starbucks Idea” is a platform designed to collect ideas and suggestions for improvement from Starbucks’ customer base, and allow other users to vote on suggestions they agree with. The most popular ideas are then implemented throughout the coffee chain.


Customers can make suggestions, other customers can vote on and discuss them, and Starbucks can see which ideas gain popular support.

Dell’s Idea Storm works in a similar way, and both companies have taken ideas from their customers and implemented them. This not only rewards the customers who made suggestions or voted for those they liked, but offline customers win as well, as the company develops in a direction driven by its customers’ desires.


The goal of IdeaStorm was to hear what new products or services customers would like to see Dell develop.

#6: Gracias, Merci, Danke, Xiexie: Thank you goes a long way!

Perhaps one of the easiest, yet most often overlooked, ways of rewarding customers is to simply say thank you.

This may come in many forms—recognition of the competition winner who designed your poster or new slogan, a discount or freebie for repeat purchases or even a simple “thank you” in-store. A simple thanks makes for a more enjoyable visit, and a feeling of appreciation, which will leave your brand with a positive sheen in that customer’s mind.

How can you use this strategy?

Remember those customer feedback forms that were once so popular? Perhaps you still use them in your stores. If you don’t, you should. You can also implement this online—set up a simple feedback form on your website; monitor conversations on Twitter and Facebook about your brand, your industry and your product; and most importantly—listen.

Listening to your customers and implementing their ideas is where the real magic happens. If they’ve taken the time and effort to get in touch with you and tell you what they think, reward them by taking their suggestions onboard and find a way to execute them.

If you send out an email newsletter to subscribers, add a freebie, a discount coupon or an exclusive offer now and then to thank them for subscribing. Perhaps you could set up a discount or special deal for your customers on their birthdays, or even just an email to say “happy birthday.”

If your customers can collect tokens, stickers, points or add currency to their accounts on your website, encourage them to persuade their friends to sign up by giving them bonuses for recommendations.

Using Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools, you can thank your customers personally by reaching out to them, responding to their feedback, and following up on any suggestions they’ve made to you.

As social media and the digital world continue to grow, increasingly more opportunities are available to businesses, which enables interaction with customers at a level we’ve never seen before.

What do you think? What do you do to reward your customers and make your business stand out from the rest? Leave your comments in the box below.

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  • Great article and something more folks should read.  

    I’ve written a social media marketing book and my first marketing effort involves getting prospective readers to suggest a title for the book — which the rest of my community will vote on.  I’m giving copies of the book to everyone who suggests a title and the winner gets bragging rights plus some goodies  

    Not only is it great for building engagement and excitement for the book, but I’m getting some great suggestions.  If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it:

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  • Corina great list of strategies. 

    In my opinion you can use these strategies leverage Google plus really well. People like Darren Rowse & Chris Brogan are doing great stuff there already. 

  • It just makes sense to take care of the people who you engage with everyday. If you can trough them a bone or two, then do it because they will love you more for it.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Michael – nice article. I think these strategies are still more effective in a BtoC marketing relationship but there has been progress in BtoB. I’ve seen some BtoB promotions and games start to build momentum. In the BtoC world, Punch Pizza up here in Minneapolis is a great example. They have quite a following on Facebook and once in a while they’ll post a coupon for a free pizza. The caveat is that you can’t get the pizza to go which is brilliant. Once you’re there why not get a glass of wine and a side salad? They typically have lines around the corner when they run the promo. What I love about it from a marketing perspective is that putting out the advertisement is free and the ROI can be measured.

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  • Excellent post. I agree that we should reward our loyal followers. Your tips are awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  • Great article Corina! Rewarding customers is a form of “positive reinforcement”,  thus giving such will strengthen probability of coming back for more. What you give comes back to you, if you reward them then they will reward you back by being a loyal customer. Psychology at work. 

  • Very useful article but i think small businesses can’t afford social rewards in these days. I will try to implement these tactics into my business and let see the impact. 

  • Hi Ana, yes you’re right giving rewards to our loyal followers/fans can be beneficial.

  • Jim

    Great article I know you mentioned in number 4 involving your customers in advertising – we developed a product to do just that at we use profile images in mosaic form to create merchants advertising 

  • Hey Gina,
    I think a lot of these ideas don’t cost the company money. What I took from the article was getting consumers involved in your marketing or product development, which could be executed via social media. That’s the great thing about marketing these days – there is so much you can do for free.


  • Robert

    Please differentiate these activities above, from the practice of offering customers rewards and discounts for posting positive Trip Advisor reviews, re which Trip Advisor is getting hot and bothered about and wants to take hotels who do this to court?

  • Earthcreateddesigns

    Great article with some take home strategies. Thanks a bunch. 

  • Great tips! Creating an advertising campaign out of the network of fans and consumers is indeed an effective tip. It can help create an active word of mouth for those company, and the participants can enjoy the great prize and recognition in the end.

  • Thanks Angela. That’s a great example of getting your customers involved – they will be personally invested by the time your book is released, and more interested in buying a copy!

  • Thanks Rana. I’ve really enjoyed playing with Google+ so far, and am looking forward to seeing how people use it effectively.

  • I agree! It’s important to almost ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the customer?’ because that’s what they will be asking!

  • Hi Patrick,

    That’s a really good example – something that seems like a simple, ‘small’ idea can actually make a big difference to the way customers perceive your business, and increasing customer loyalty and repeat business.

  • Hi Ana,

    Thanks for reading! Perhaps the toughest question is how to effectively balance rewarding loyal followers/customers, and encouraging new customers with rewards, to increase your number of loyal followers.

  • Thanks! I agree, positive reinforcement is so important, and hopefully it is true that your customers will reward you by coming back for more!

  • Gina and Georgia – many of these ideas can be implemented on a small scale where they will be free or relatively inexpensive. Of course, for larger businesses, these same ideas can be carried out on a much larger scale, with a big budget, but the essential strategy remains the same.

  • Great point, Robert. Rewarding customers for their business, and for recommending your services is a very different thing to paying for positive reviews, whether that is with cash, prizes, or discounts.

  • Thanks for reading!

  • propagandahouse

    Love this post Corina – great ideas + relevant examples. Also a good reminder of the endless potential for prosperity (and fun) that Social Media offers to businesses!


  • Ah, that would depend on what your products/services are, and who your customers are! There is no ‘best’ way to reward your customers in my opinion, different industries, customer groups, and business owners will mean certain strategies work better than others. That’s why it’s great that most of these strategies can be implemented on a smaller scale at little or no cost, to test the waters first, and see what works.

  • Absolutely! For customers who are already loyal to a brand, this is a great way to let them show it, and give them a feeling of ownership. Plus, it’s an excellent way for the brand to gain credible publicity.

  • 6 Ways to Socially Reward Your Customers

  • Hi Corina,

    This is a great resource indeed, brands are always on the lookout for ways to reward customers in the social context. I think we should also look at rewarding “shares” and I came across another article yesterday that talks about “share to reveal” strategy that brands can use on Facebook.

    Whenever followers share or say re-tweet an item, exclusive content or perks are revealed to them. I think this idea was fantastic and worth looking into as well.


  • Thanks Dan! More than anything, I love how fun and accessible social media is, as a way of interacting with others!

  • Hi Lace,

    That’s another great idea – the important thing to remember in using that strategy is to give customers something they want! A lot of start-ups use the “share to reveal” strategy, or more commonly “share to get an invite quicker”, when they are in alpha and beta testing. Sadly, this is only useful if people understand WHAT they are sharing, and WHY. A stealth start-up that does not explain what it does is not a great breeding ground for recommendations among users.

    This is an easy strategy to implement on Facebook, however, and a great way to get users to like a page, by offering a simple, immediate reward for doing so.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • This is a great article and now more than ever people are looking for value and reasons to become involved.

    This is also where collaboration works well and it opens up a world of possibility.

    A very inspiring post.

    Thanks very much, Peter

  • Manish Guha

    Hi Corina,
    This was indeed a great read.
    Sr. Copywriter (India)

  • Thanks for reading, Peter. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Thanks, Manish! Glad you liked it.

  • I use a social loyalty website called that creates large volumes of engagement and interaction via competitions. They also tweet winners name to make the winners feel valued. Any user that enters a competition is also rewarded with loyalty points that are redeemable for products on the site. Everything about it really values us as users. L

  • CathyJELady

    Just yesterday,  I was placing my order with vista print for business cards,  and one of the FREE things that they had was a customer appreciation card.   So I ordered them, along with my special customer offering as my way of saying thank you.

    I’ve also started running Internet Only Specials for my social networks.

    Love some of the other ideas that you have shared and look forward to starting to implement some into my marketing.

  • Hi Corina!

    I really appreciate that you mentioned saying “Thank you!” Engaging fans, encouraging them to participate with your brands, and rewarding them is so important, but I think a good, old fashioned thank you is huge when it comes to making people feel your appreciation.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    -Lacey, Social Media Manager with C.A Advertising Solutions

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  • Val

    Great tips Corina
    I also think hand-written notes are very nice and well received. They can be short yet it really shows your customer that you took the time to personally acknowledge their existence. In a world of rapid movement, this means the world to people It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to make a difference!

  • Hi Lance,

    Thanks for the suggestion – it sounds like a great way to keep users involved and rewarded.

  • That’s wonderful! A card, or handwritten note (@bca4598bca1211c43c0fa04aa46a396f:disqus mentioned below) is a really nice touch sometimes.

    If you’re trying to grow your followers on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites, Internet only specials are a great way to do that.

  • Thanks, Lacey! I think you’re absolutely right – being courteous and grateful isn’t hard, but is a great way to put a smile on someone’s face.

  • Corina,
    You really have a talent for writing concise, compelling, informative articles, kudos to you.  I think what I loved most about this article is that you’re saying “it’s all about strategy” there is no 1 good strategy for all companies when it comes to social media, and especially rewarding your customers through it, because everyone’s customers are different, everyone’s customers are most likely on different social networking platforms and most importantly every business, especially small businesses have DIFFERENT goals for their business.

    I think the most crucial thing to ask before jumping into all these ogreat tips is “How is your business going to measure your success?” 

    Thanks for your hard work and creativity!

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  • I do social media work for a insurance agency in Florida. It’s tough coming up with ways to reward customers in this particular business. You can’t give discounts on insurance for checking in. However, we’re going to try out a monthly drawing for everyone who checks using their FB app and the winner will get a $10 Starbucks card. We also give $5 Chick-fil-A gift cards to people who refer friends to the agency. Finally, we offer discounts on products and services that our commercial clients offer. It helps build a relationship with our commercial clients while rewarding all of clients. Plus it doesn’t cost anyone a dime to do this.

  • Several years ago while working at a digital media company developing branded content for clients, I discovered I had help coach them to think about their audiences’ needs more, and to bring that mindset into play when developing scripts and other message elements. One of my tactics to help support the company’s particular expertise was a content audit/planning process. This and other things laid a foundation so that when projects were completed, I sent small gift bags containing handwritten thank you notes and a copy of the Get Content, Get Customers book to each member of the client team. Sticky notes called their attention to key areas I recommended they keep up on following the launch period. While they were fully capable of developing their own content, I found that most came back to our company to get the new jobs done because the whole experience A) set us apart and B) demonstrated how we were doing specialized work that was valuable.

  • I love the last piece of advice.  If you’re a small business and money is tight, sometimes just a simple thank you can create a positive image in the customer’s mind about you business.

  • Hi Susie,

    Thank you so much! I’m thrilled that so many people seem to be enjoying my articles, and hope to continue bringing relevant information and insights to the table.

    You’re absolutely right about there being no ‘right’ or ‘best’ strategy when it comes to social media – not only are there buckets of tools and services to choose from, but this is such a new playing field still, that there is a lot of experimentation to be done yet.

    Thanks for reading,

  • That’s great! I love the idea of rewarding everyone, through your relationship with commercial clients. Thanks for your comment!

  • Another great example! I love that you used sticky notes to point out specifics, that makes the gesture so much more personal and worthwhile!

  • Great post! I work in an industry that does little with social rewards.  We are exploring these options as a way to differentiate ourselves and add value for our customers.

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  • This is Great stuff

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  • This strategy can be also easily implemented using such simple but powerful tools like InviteBox. It allows to reward users instantly if they share the word about your website or blog with their social network peers. And yes, it will work great only if users know what they are asked to share as nobody wants to send a crap to their friends.

  • I enjoyed reading this article. It was very instructive and relevant. Thank you for your contribution.

  • Udeckard

    What a great read! 

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  • 4 years later, this post is still helping people. Thanks! 🙂