Fad or not, Twitter can be a valuable tool for saving money.
Before you roll your eyes and say, "I don't care what you had for lunch; get a life,' what if I told you that the social network can save you money? Same with the more popular Facebook.com, but this story will focus on its buzzworthy competitor.
First, for those without a clue, Twitter.com users can send and receive 140-character messages, or tweets. But it's not just about keeping tabs on friends and family. The service can also be used to keep abreast of the best deals, find coupons for freebies and receive valuable financial advice.
Many local companies are using Twitter to connect with customers in different ways. Ask Twitter-using Minnesotans if they've ever found a deal using the tool, and most everyone mentions Punch Pizza. Followers and friends of Punch Pizza (twitter.com/punchpizza) have received coupons for $3 pizza, free Surly beer and free Izzy's ice cream. The offers are so good and the fan base so loyal that during one special offer this spring, Punch made more than 11,000 pizzas as part of the deal.
"When you offer extraordinary value, people will spread it. They'll do the marketing for you. They'll retweet [share the discounts with members of their social network] the deals on Twitter and share the deals on Facebook," said David Erickson, director of e-strategy for Tunheim Partners in Bloomington. Punch Pizza is a Tunheim client.
Zack Steven, a co-founder of Local Tweeps (localtweeps.com), a website designed to help users find local people and businesses that are using Twitter, once received free Guthrie tickets by following the theater (twitter.com/GuthrieTheater). The tickets, given away on short notice, are an example of how businesses can use the network to drum up business during slow periods.
As a Twitter-using deal-hunter, I love how you never know what types of offers will show up in your Twitter feed. It might be a free glass of wine to the first 10 people who say "tweet" to their server at the Dakota Jazz Club (twitter.com/dakotajazzclub) or a half-price drink coupon for filling out a short survey for Dunn Bros. Coffee (twitter.com/dunnbroscoffees).
I asked my Twitter followers how it has saved them money. Coupons for Punch Pizza found on Twitter, Facebook and the photo-sharing site Flickr received the most mentions. Twitter follower @shopaholicchic follows Baja Sol (twitter.com/BajaSol) and Green Mill (twitter.com/greenmill001) for specials while @ScottDL said Kip's Pub in Minneapolis (twitter.com/kipspub) will sometimes send out tweets for free beer.
To find your favorite brands and businesses, type their names into the "Find People" search box and click on "follow" to receive their messages. You can always "unfollow" any time you please.
Another way to find freebies is to follow or "friend" folks who make it their business to find the best deals. Sites like CheapTweet.com and coupontweet.com scan Twitter for bargains so you don't have to spend the time.
Minnesotan Christina Brown, also known as "the Northern Cheapskate" (twitter.com/ncheapskate), follows Heather (twitter.com/Freebies4Mom), Mercedes (twitter.com/CommnSenseMoney), Tara (twitter.com/DealSeekingMom) and Erin (twitter.com/eringifford) for the best deals.
Bad customer service experience? Use Twitter to complain. Comcast responds to tweets from unhappy customers and tries to fix their problems (twitter.com/comcastcares). Not everyone agrees (twitter.com/comcastcaresnot).
"It's smart marketing because it turns a critic into a champion,'' Erickson said. "People who get their problems solved tend to be glowing about it." Customers gain because time is money. Not having to call and wait on hold to fix a problem is worth a lot in my book.
Not so hot on coupons but seeking advice on retirement or saving for college? Chances are your favorite personal finance bloggers and columnists have Twitter accounts, too. Follow yours truly at: twitter.com/kablog.
Whom do you follow? Tell Kara McGuire • 612-673-7293 or firstname.lastname@example.org