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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

December 8, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Free drink for Facebook ‘like’? Deals may be worth it for businesses

It seemed too good pass up.

“Because we like you. Receive a free drink when you like us on Facebook or Twitter,” read the sign by the register at Cafe Javasti in Wedgwood. I checked with the barista. This is serious? It was. I ordered a couple crepes and pulled out my smartphone.

The effort businesses put in to get more people to connect with them on social media makes perfect sense, considering where we are these days. But it never ceases to amaze me. I’ve seen everyone from shops to restaurants hold contests, sponsor giveaways and offer discounts just so more people click a button on a website. Granted, it’s a powerful button on a couple of very powerful websites.

I sipped my tall spiced apple cider and watched the drizzle. A whole free drink? This was new.

But even for this small neighborhood coffee shop, apparently, it’s worth it.

It still feels funny, being courted by brands on what are primarily social spaces. A Facebook like or a Twitter follow mixes posts from Amazon.com or Nordstrom with posts from your closest friends and sends a subtle message that this is a brand you enjoy.

At a time when brands compete more viciously than ever for your attention, that’s a powerful thing. It’s been fun to watch that space at the end of TV commercials — you know, where the company website used to go? — make way for Facebook. “Visit us at Facebook.com/honda,” says that smooth, elegant voice over a dark screen and the logo’s shimmery letters.

Websites manage information. Social media manage relationships. At a time when our connections direct our consumption, there’s no doubt, really, which matter most.

The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce offers its 2,200 member businesses — 80 percent of which are small businesses — one social media program a month. In November, Shelly Milam of Juniper Networks spoke about how businesses can attract and encourage influential fans her industry calls “social media ambassadors.” Before that, the chamber hosted a presentation on how its members can make the most of an image based social network called Pinterest.

Social media in business is old enough to be a given, but new enough to remain an administrative challenge. Posting content takes time small businesses barely have. Sometimes an employee takes it on and gets into a good rhythm. But what if that employee leaves? And how do businesses know when they can do it themselves and when they need to hire one of a growing number of local social media “experts?”

It would be one thing if things stayed stable. But as the tools and audiences evolve, so do the expectations. The chamber’s Christina Donegan said she loves to follow the Twitter accounts of Seattle’s @trophycupcakes and @toppot doughnuts because they do one thing well that’s becoming more and more valuable in social spaces: they get visual. “I don’t think I wanted a doughnut,” she said. “But then I see a picture, and what do you know.”

The chamber’s programs haven’t stressed a need to offer perks for social media love, but plenty of local businesses do it. Boom Noodle in Bellevue takes 10 percent off the menu if you give it a Facebook like. Hotel Monaco gives you a free bottle of red or white wine just for checking in on influential review site Yelp.

As I waited for the crepes I’d ordered (and paid for) at Cafe Javasti, I pulled out my smartphone and scrolled down the Facebook page I had just liked for a free cup of cider. Scrolling back, I saw pictures of employees horsing around, impressive latte art of a turkey around Thanksgiving (“Nice work, Cory!” read one fan’s comment) and news about what soups they had for lunch — I didn’t know they ever had soups for lunch.

At one point I saw a photo of the barista who let me know I could sub in goat cheese on just about any savory crepe a couple weeks ago. The caption said her name was Amelia. So now I know.

They bought my like. But hey — I meant it.

All in all, that’s not a bad deal.

Thanks to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who let me know about the social media deals they have seen around town!

Mónica Guzmán’s column appears in Sunday’s Seattle Times. Got a story about living with technology in the Northwest — or know someone she should meet? Send her an email at mguzman@seattletimes.com, follow her on Twitter @moniguzman or send her a message on Facebook.

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