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February 14, 2011
Discounts for 'Likes'? Wait a Minute
 
There appear to be enough things to enjoy about the Spot Dessert Bar in New York's East Village district that you'd think they wouldn't need to be offering "discounts to people who 'like' the place." Yet that's what The Wall Street Journal reports the trendy bakery is doing, among other Internet promotions, thus raising a question of tactical ethics in an otherwise upbeat example of social media PR.

Offering discounts for social media raves could be seen as cream-filled bribery. Yet here's The Journal's depiction of a scene at the bakery: "Spot Dessert has been holding contests on Facebook and offering discounts to people who 'like' the place. It also brings networking to your table. As the staff serve up roasted kumquats with blood-orange sorbet or sesame pear crisp with basil ice cream, they offer laptops and iPads so that customers can add the shop to their social-media profiles."

This sounds like a social media version of hyped-up PR. While we've been calling attention to the growing prominence of social media as a public relations channel, handing customers iPads for on-the-spot raves isn't quite what we had in mind. The Journal refers to the campaign as a "social media blitz," and so it seems to be. The iPad-assisted tactics, sparked by Small Girls PR, replaced a more traditional PR push that drew mentions but little lasting impact. 

So here's a sweet-tooth setting to spark a new round of discussions about PR ethics, social-media-propelled this time.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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