On their blog, Brightkite has announced they are now available for local shops and restaurants to create Brightkite based promotions. If you check in at the store that’s partnering with the promotion, a coupon post will appear that you can present for free stuff. The first one being announced is for the Rackhouse Pub in Denver, CO.
This is really a brilliant idea, for so many reasons. First, it helps Brightkite get more users. If people know that by regularly posting they could get something free, of course they’re going to check in more. That’s a win for Brightkite.
It works for the business, as more people will show up for the coupon offer. Brightkite users who wouldn’t have necessarily come in will now show up for something free, and likely buy more than that. If they like what they get, they’ll come back. That’s a win for the restaurant.
What I like most of all is the idea that a company can have a promotion like this, without having to build it themselves. I tell you now, the future of phone apps will be like this: Companies that do one thing, social media, offering their platform to companies that want to sponsor promotions.
Does this sound like selling out? It is, if the company sacrifices it’s user base at the altar of commerce. If Twitter posted text ads every 10th post, yes, that would be selling out, and we would all cry bloody murder.
That, however, is what will keep smart companies from ruining our day this way: We will leave them. I don’t believe Twitter or Facebook users would leave these sites if the companies started charging for use. We’re used to paying for things that we want, especially things we know we already like.
But if they soil the experience, they cut their own throats. If they do, then they will go away and there will be no funnerals. The smart ones will find a concept like this, one that attracts social media users AND turns a profit – the Rosetta Stone of on line marketing these days.
It’s also far more democratic for businesses to each be able to use a system that’s already been built, and not having to pay to build one themselves. Coca-cola could probably build their own Facebook, and then attract users to it if they wanted to. But a tiny cola company like Fred’s Bottled Yum-Yum, which doesn’t actually exist, but should, could never afford to compete on that level.
However, with a paid promotional strategy available through the real Facebook, Fred can be as powerful as Coke is. He can get a presence on a site that already has established users, and maintained by a company and employees focused on making sure the platform is running smoothly.
I’ve always loved Brightkite. Well, they’ve only been around two years, but I’ve been a huge fan of theirs for both. They were one of the first sites to realize the potential of moving social media off of computer screens and out into the real world. They were one of the first ones to find a real, fun use for mobile phones in social media too. And I could be wrong, but I believe they had the iPhone’s first social media killer app.
So it makes sense to me that Brightkite comes up with a strategy like this first. They think outside the box, and not in a silly way, but in a productive, “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” kind of way. If I was still working in the agency trenches, and I had a brick-and-morter business that wanted flesh-and-blood walk-in customers, I would be all over this.