This is a proposal for an experiment in Western Massachusetts to start our own “Twitter-pon” list. Most small businesses using Groupon don’t fair well, at the end of the day. But there’s a way around it: start a Twitter list of local businesses that offer discounts directly to customers. Here’s the logic and details:
I don’t get Groupon. Or LivingSocial, or whatever the next location-based couponing site is going to be. And there will be others. Because that business has such a low barrier to entry and the profit margins are so high, if you’ve got $50-100k anyone can do it. It’s not brain surgery.
Try Googling “groupon scam” or “groupon ripoff” and read the stories. They’re not hard to find. For consumers it’s mostly a good deal, but they’re not the ones footing the bill for the discount. It’s the local businesses, often small operations themselves, that have to pay for the discount, pay a fee to Groupon, and pay a tax on the whole thing. Restaurants in particular, because the margins are so tight, seem to suffer when they try Groupon. Ponder this: if the economy was humming along, do you think Groupon ever gets off the ground?
Phone Books, Craigslist, and Twitter
I think about those things a lot, phone books, Craigslist, and Twitter. They’re all different communication tools, but they do have one critical thing in common: they’re communication from individual people that’s aggregated into a whole new thing. What gives the phone book value is not that my friend’s phone number is inside, it’s that nearly everyone has a number inside.
The same can be said for both Craigslist and Twitter: when all the individual communication points are combined, it gives more value to each, in addition to the bunch of posts or tweets (easier to live in a city than an island by yourself).
But there’s a problem, especially with Twitter: while communication can be aggregated by following someone, sometimes that’s both too much and not enough. It’s too much because I don’t want all the communication from someone that has an interesting tweet once a month. BUT I do want that one tweet because it’s a local business and they’ve got a great discount on dry cleaning. See the problem?
The Power of @WMApons, Twitter Lists and #wmapon
There are sites that aggregate discount offer tweets from big businesses (two, here and here), but there’s not a site or tool that slices the number of businesses down even further, creating a group of businesses based on geography that offer discounts or coupons via tweets. Maybe it’s out there, but I haven’t found such a targeted group.
This might blow up in my face, but here’s the idea. I’ve created a new Twitter account called Western Mass Discounts (@WMApons) and along with that a list of the same name. Why do both? People don’t want to muck up their main Twitter feed by following a 100 different local businesses, BUT I think they would follow list of pure local business discounts.
Think of the @WMApons list as a mall full of businesses offering deals. People go to the mall because they’re in the buying mood, and that’s why people would look at the @WMApons list: because they know local business are offering deals there. Remember, living on an island is hard. Better to be in the city or mall where the commerce is happening.
How To Join @WMApons
Making this idea hum like a finely tuned engine is going to possibly require local businesses that want to join @WMApons to create another Twitter account dedicated to ONLY your discount or coupon offers. Why? Because, remember, people want deals. That’s what you want to give them. If you foul-up the list with general tweets about how great business was today, then the perceived value of the list is diminished. The more valuable the list, the greater the number of followers, and the number of potential customers increases. Pretty cool, yeah?
That’s the idea, anyhow. If you have questions or suggestions for tweaks on this experiment, let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, if you’re a local business go follow @WMApons and if you’re a person looking for deals, follow the @WMApons/wmapons list.
Of course, like the phone book, Craigslist, and Twitter, the more people who use @WMApons, the more valuable it becomes.