Undoubtedly social media has broken down barriers, allowing the formation of local and international communities bonded together through common interests. In a business-minded move, local group buying websites are leveraging these communities to promote their offers and reach a wider audience – though at what cost?
Australian group buying start-up, Jump On It, operates 13 different Facebook profiles, each geographically targeted to various cities in Australia and abroad. However Colin Fabig, Jump on It Chief Executive told Smart Company that the company was not the original creator of its ‘I Love Melbourne’ page – rather the group contacted the administrator and essentially paid them for the page and list of fans.
Through its collective of Facebook pages, Jump On It promotes its deals to over 345,000 Australians – of this the ‘I Love Melbourne page holds the largest collective of 238,000 fans – clearly a sound investment.
Another Australian-based group buying website, Zoupon was also reported to have bought a Facebook Fan page ‘Secret Melbourne‘. Although when visiting the page, unlike Jump On It, it is not clear that Zoupon are the owner of the page or even contributors – the page still maintains a logo unassociated to the company, the description purports that it was inspired by the ‘Secret London Facebook group’ and the posts in the newsfeed tend to be community based. The ‘Secret Melbourne’ Facebook page also does not show up under an organic Google search as belonging to and/or associated with Zoupon.
Adam Schwab, Zoupon founder commented, “We just kept it the same, and then we started to add Zoupon deals in there for Melbourne users. We kept the purpose of the group intact, it’s a great way to start plugging deals to your members. In a sense, we’re not actually buying and selling the page, we’re buying and selling the administrative rights. We go to the person, give them x-amount of dollars and we become the administrator.”
However, when digging a little further, another group emerges, ‘Really Really Secret Melbourne (Zoupon free Guarantee)‘, which is described as the ‘page Secret Melbourne used to be until it (allegedly) became a paid advertising platform for Zoupon’ – indicating a member backlash against the paid advertising of the original ‘Secret Melbourne’ fan page.
The formation of this group though only having a relatively small following (144 fans), hints at the fine line that is social media commerce and the mindset of users who do not appreciate being covertly marketed too.
Whether a clever move and though there may be a market for it – this begs the question, should this be a path that retailers should pursue? Given that not only is it unclear from a legal perspective whether this type of business is condoned by Facebook itself, but as online advertising and marketing become increasingly prevalent (and in some cases invasive), do companies risk a backlash by ‘covertly’ entering into these local online communities?