Love it or loathe it, social media is playing a pivotal role in our lives like never before.
How many times have you started a conversation with “I saw this thing on Twitter...”? Or have been informed of a friend’s upcoming nuptials through the blue and white kingdom of Facebook? Or cooed with delight over an objet du désir on Pinterest?
It’s a phenomenon that’s seamlessly merged into real life, and as we migrate into three screen living (TV on, tablet on lap, smartphone nearby), its influence will only increase.
But it’s not all pictures of babies, passive aggressive ranting and jokes condensed into 140-characters.
Social media – if used properly – can yield big bargains, and knowing how and where to look can turn your habitual procrastination into a much happier bank balance.
Love it? Like it
Despite Facebook’s unnerving ability to present all-too-relevant adverts on the side of your home page, it’s not entirely sentient (yet), so you’ll need to actively seek out the stuff you like.
But you already know what you like, right? So find the corresponding brand page on Facebook and give it the thumbs up. (You could even ‘Like’ Covered Mag while you’re at it – shameless self-promotion ed)
The deals aren’t going to come pouring into your News Feed, but good things come to those who wait. As Katie Davies, a 29 year old beautician from Macclesfield says: “I liked a shoe brand on Facebook a while ago and when I logged in the other day it had posted an update offering its fans 50% off using a special code. FIFTY PERCENT! That’s like two pairs of shoes for the price of one. I was, clearly, chuffed.”
The same deal applies to Twitter. Brands are even starting to jump on the much-maligned Google+ platform.
In the know
As well as the brands you like, it’s also worth following people that also like the brands you like, as combined this can prove a formidable ally in the sales stakes.
Advance warning of flash sales, codes for early or VIP entry to sales events, tip-offs... these can make the difference between paying full whack and bagging a bargain. “I follow a girl who’s really into luxury travel,” says Emily Saunders, a 31 year-old PR executive. “She tweeted some insider knowledge about an upcoming £1 hotel sale so I was ready and raring to go, and managed to save £159 on a swish hotel room.”
Read your feed
Please understand that we’re under no illusions about how interminably dull it can be scrolling through your news feeds. Yes, your toddler is finally eating fruit. We get it.
However, it’s always worth having a closer look from time to time as Facebook’s Offers feature can throw up some impressive bargains. This will take the form of an official looking post saying something along the lines of “[Name of friend] claimed an offer from [brand name]”, serving to highlight deals you might miss by not being a fan of that page.
Often this will involve a deal on an online purchase (accessed through the announcement), but sometimes simply means ‘claiming’ the offer, then showing your phone to the vendor. Yours truly is a big fan of speciality tea, for example, and I recently scored a free cuppa after I did exactly that.
Not that long ago our news feeds were dominated by announcements that so-and-so had become the ‘mayor’ of a local store or place, thanks to the checking-in trend pioneered by Foursquare. Thankfully that’s calmed down a bit now, but check-in deals are still very much a ‘thing’ and well worth pursuing.
Go to the ‘check-in’ button on Facebook via your phone and in the list of nearby places you’ll see green or yellow ticket icons next to shop or business names. These are all deals you can take advantage of instantly. “I always check these offers around lunchtime when I’m out and about,” says city worker Ben Morgan, 26. “Usually there’s a coffee shop or sandwich place around offering a good deal, and I can save quite a few pounds every week.”
Be in it to win it
Let’s be realistic. Brands and companies aren’t offering these deals out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it’s easy advertising for them. That’s why you’ll see countless ‘RT to win!’ contests on Twitter.
But the very act of retweeting takes no more effort than a click of the mouse, so what have you got to lose? Twitter fan Janine Pewsby, a 30 year-old housewife, did just that and ended up winning a year’s supply of nappies, “which has saved me a fortune,” she says.
Ask for advice
The beauty of social media is that it acts as a gateway to a ginormous hive mind of opinions and experience – particularly Twitter, where you’re not necessarily shackled to ‘friends’ on the basis that you once went to the same yoga class.
If you’re about to make a big purchase, or are considering one, ask the internet first. Dave Symonds, a 41 year-old mechanic from Peterborough was about to buy a new camera when he idly mentioned it in a tweet, and, he explains, “some random guy popped up to say that for a little bit less money I could get a different model that was just as good”.
After a bit of investigation, Dave heeded this advice and ended up with a tidy camera for £40 less than he’d expected…
Dos and don’ts for saving using social media
DO: Remember that your rights as a consumer are just as relevant when making purchases with discount codes or through a claimed offer. If you’re not happy with the service you’ve received, for example, or feel that the promotion is misleading, then tell the offender (and tell them on the social network, too – they’ll be quick to remedy a public complaint). In the unlikely event that you’re still dissatisfied, you should take your complaint to an ombudsman.
DON’T: Impulse buy! Yep, that may well be an amazing deal on a handmade silk bedspread, but do you really need it? Or even want it? Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you should part with your cash for it.
DO: Remember that social networks have been designed so that everyone can see what you’re doing all the time, unless you say otherwise. Think about your privacy settings, especially if you ‘like’ a brand page that requires you to sign up to an app. Just because an app says it wants to access your private data doesn't mean you have to let it.
DON’T: Spam your friends’ news feeds. Retweeting to win, sharing content and claiming offers in moderation is fine, but remember that others have to read all about it, and you may well find yourself unceremoniously blocked if you constantly retweet irrelevant information into their timeline.