Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are great tools for keeping in touch with family and friends. But over the years, these sites and others have flexed their consumer connections to become smart money-saving tools. Here is a look at how you can use popular social media sites to put more money in your wallet.
1. "Like" and "follow" to find deals and discounts. Follow travel companies (such as airlines and hotels) and retailers (such as department stores) on Facebook and Twitter to learn about last-minute sales. Many companies like Cheap Tickets (@CheapTickets) post deals exclusive to their social media followers. These same companies often hold Facebook giveaways or offer the opportunity to earn prizes by retweeting a post on Twitter.
2. Get help with a hashtag. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest use the hashtag (#) – once well known as the pound sign – to categorize postings. Typing #coupon or #promo can unveil numerous ways to save. Or use your own hashtag or post to a company to track down something you want. For instance, if you are in the market for a new dishwasher, you can tweet to a distributor, asking for a discount. If you are experiencing problems getting a refund, or find you have a defective product, you can post your complaint on the company's Facebook page or tweet using the hashtag and the name of the company. These techniques often can get effective results from a company.
3. Pay attention to Pinterest. This site is not just for crafts and recipes. You can find tutorials on do-it-yourself home repairs and read advice on how to create and follow a budget. Try the phrase "save money," and you will discover options ranging from budget-friendly meals to how to save money at popular tourist destinations. Use hashtags on Pinterest to follow stores and brands and to get the inside scoop on deals.
4. Find free financial advice. Need a dose of daily motivation to achieve your financial goals? Almost all of the big-name money experts dole out daily money tips on Twitter or Facebook. On Twitter, look for these financial experts: @JeanChatzky, @JaneBryantQuinn, @SuzeOrmanShow and @DaveRamsey.
5. Reach money goals. SmartyPig.com (@SmartyPig) is an online banking service that lets family and friends contribute to your financial goals. Maybe you are dreaming of a tropical vacation or you desperately need a new car. With SmartyPig, you can share your need with your Facebook and Twitter followers. They, in turn, can provide encouragement and even contribute to your cause.
6. Track spending. Tweet What You Spend (@twys) enables you to use your Twitter account to track spending. It is a good tool to help you stay within budget. The app sends information about purchases from your smartphone and saves it in an online cash journal. TWYS will send alerts when you get close to breaking spending limits that you establish.
7. Check in for savings. Download the free Foursquare smartphone application, and some retailers and dining establishments will send discounts directly to your phone when you "check in." This lets them know you are shopping or dining at their business. The more often you use Foursquare, the more deals will come your way. Your check-in shows up on Facebook to alert others of your shopping or dining preferences.
Everybody loves to feel as though they are scoring a great deal. But keep in mind that finding savings through social media does come with a cost. Most notably, using social media means sharing a certain amount of personal information. This can leave you more vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. When using social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, make sure your privacy settings assure that you control who sees your information. Also check the settings on your smartphone to ensure your physical location is only revealed when you want it to be.
Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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