Unless you have spent the past year in hiding, you cannot fail to have noticed the increasing importance of social media in how we run our lives. Whether we witter on Twitter – Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi are the latest recruits – or avoid face-to-face encounters by using Facebook, networking websites are helping us run our lives, get our news and catch up with our friends. But can tweeting make you richer in 2012? Here are some ways to turn social networking to your financial advantage.
Use special offers
Many of us have become used to searching for a promotional code online whenever we want to buy anything, but some retailers have become savvier about who gets access to the best deals. In an attempt to promote loyalty and glean more information about the people who buy their products, some will offer special codes to Twitter followers or Facebook users.
If you are looking to buy from a retailer, it is worth checking both these sites for deals. It may also be worth ‘‘liking’’ the Facebook page of any retailers you buy from regularly. This means you’ll be able to see when their sales start, and their discount codes may appear in your newsfeed.
Big brands such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have Facebook pages, but so do smaller luxury brands. They may be used to promote so-called ‘‘flash’’ sales – where products are discounted for a very short period and you need to be aware of them quickly. Becoming a ‘‘follower’’ of a brand’s Twitter feed may yield similar rewards.
Complain using Twitter
Companies are growing wise to the power of the social network – and you may get a better result from them by venting your spleen in 140 characters rather than in a strongly worded letter to the Customer Services Department.
Some companies employ people to monitor their Twitter feeds and reply directly. Because you can generate maximum bad publicity by putting your complaint in such a social space, it is expedient for them to deal with your problem as quickly as possible.
Even if you are new to the world of Twitter and do not have an army of followers hanging on your every tweet, it is still possible to get your complaint seen to quickly.
The trick is to use a ‘‘hashtag’’, which will label the topic of your email – and help ensure that the company you are moaning about sees your tweet. For example, if you check the hashtags #vodafail or #btfail you will see complaints about these two companies. Or you can direct your tweet to the company – if you wanted to contact BT you could tweet @BTcare (which is its customer service Twitter feed) to get it right in front of the company. At the very least, you may avoid half an hour on hold, waiting for the right person to speak to.
Before you complain on Twitter it is worth seeing whether the company has form in this area. There is no point sending your complaint into the ether if nobody at the business ever looks at the Twitter feed.
It is easy to do this. For example, if you check out the official Twitter feed for Marks & Spencer you will see that the company is checking stock for people and reporting issues to the customer service team. However, if you see nothing like this on another company’s Twitter feed then you may be wasting your time.
Get debt advice and updates
You can use Twitter to follow useful organisations to get budgeting and debt advice as well as reminders about deadlines. Some interesting groups include @citizensadvice, for debt tips and scam advice, and @cccspressoffice, for the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. Other useful tweeters include the Government tax office @hmrcgovuk and @directgov for consumer advice. The Office of Fair Trading is also useful on @oftgov.
Get scam notifications
Financial scams have proliferated on the internet, and social media users are frequent targets. That is why it pays to ‘‘Like’’ Sophos on Facebook. The computer security expert regularly posts updates about scams doing the rounds – this week its updates focused on fake HMRC emails ahead of January’s tax deadline.
And a caution
Social networking can have its downsides. In the same way as it is easy for you to contact a company via Twitter or Facebook, it can contact you, too. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) recently had to warn debt collection companies not to use Facebook or Twitter to contact people who owed them money.
The OFT said this was a new take on the practice of putting postcards through letter boxes or leaving messages on answerphones in an attempt to embarrass people into paying up. A similar message on Facebook would be even more public. If you see anything posted on your Facebook wall that appears to be from a debt collector you can complain to the OFT.
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