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How to get discounts by sharing on social media

June 9, 2014 at 1:36 PM ET

The Internet is filled with tips and tricks on how to save money (which is why you’re reading this.) You surely know that following your favorite brands or merchants on Twitter and Facebook can mean an early heads-up on sales or limited-time offers. And you’ve almost certainly seen the come-ons to refer a friend to the latest deal site or boutique online merchant in exchange for store credit once they make a purchase. Did you know that sharing your purchase information with friends, or just connections, through social media is another path to savings? Cheapism.com explains how to get these discounts.

Why Companies Pay You to Share

As many marketers will attest, word-of-mouth endorsements from friends are often far more persuasive than any advertising pitch they can create. By sharing what you’ve just purchased you’re indicating that you liked the vendor and/or the product enough to open up your wallet. The compensation for sharing on social media is just another advertising format — and one that can be quite fruitful for the parties involved.

The Group Buy

One somewhat well-known share-and-save program is Living Social’s Me+3 promotion. After customers purchase a deal from Living Social, they receive a unique link to be shared. If three friends also buy the deal, the first buyer gets it for free. Other sites offer similar promotions, but generally you need to find the friends before you make the purchase. (This latter process was the origin of daily deal sites such as Groupon.) Ticketmaster has an identically named Me+3 program that offers discounts on packs of four tickets to select events.

New Ways to Save

One newcomer to the burgeoning share-and-save economy is Social Rebate, which has allied with several hundred online vendors. Once shoppers make a purchase, they’re offered an opportunity to share the details through their social networks in exchange for a discount. If friends make a purchase using the provided link, the original customer can save up to 30 percent of the initial price. Social Rebate is just one of several companies (Referral Candy, Shopalize, and 500 Friends are others) enabling the new “buy, share, and save” model with software plug-ins for vendors.

Kelly Martin, president of Fur-Ever Home Rescue, a shelter for dogs in Virginia Beach, Virginia, spends up to $300 on dog food every month for her own pets. Since last fall she has saved more than $200 by sharing her purchases on social media. She (and the pups) prefer the food sold by The Pet Way, which has an arrangement with Social Rebate. A few days after ordering, she shares the link on her Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages. Rebates for her friends’ subsequent purchases go directly into the Fur-Ever Home Rescue PayPal account.

As with any deal that almost sounds too good to be true, there’s a catch: It’s not always clear which online stores offer social media savings incentives. The opportunity doesn’t present itself before you click “buy,” which adds a hefty dose of uncertainty. Do you really want to pay full price for the item? One way to eliminate the risk is to check the website of the company providing the enabling software to see if the vendor appears as a client. But this is no sure thing. Curebit operates a share/discount program and lists just six participating retailers, one of which is Bonobos. Social Rebate doesn’t list any at all.

If this new spin on sharing and commerce takes off, frugal shoppers will be the beneficiaries — especially if they use a coupon code up front and a share-and-save offer after making the purchase. Now just sit back and watch the savings mount.

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