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Many retailers today have customer loyalty program; whether it’s a stamp or punch card, e-mail listserv or frequent shopper rewards. Many of these programs are similar and don’t think outside the box – the company spends money for discounts and free products, but what do they do next? The dessert chain Tasti D-Lite, is thinking outside the box with its plans to integrate social media into their loyalty program, TastiRewards. Tasti D-Lite’s new program will allow customers to link their Twitter and Foursquare accounts with their TastiRewards loyalty card. Each time a customer uses the TastiRewards card, their Twitter and FourSquare profile is updated to tell followers about the offer and they earn additional rewards points. The reward for the customer – a free medium size treat with every 60 points. The reward for Tasti D-Lite? Knowing who and where their customers are and sustainable social media promotion. Tasti D-Lite understands itskey demographic — ages 18 to 34 with average incomes — and is using these customers’ favorite social networks to make an even meaningful connection with them. Though it may seem like a minor move, Tasti D-Lite’s actions actually have some great implications for the future. As the first retailer to offer a loyalty program linked to social media, they have the opportunity to really show other companies how it’s done. Many companies are adopting social media through Twitter and Facebook, but are stuck on where to go from there and what to do with it. A move like Tasti D-Lite’s is a great example to follow. The chain can track customer’s purchasing habits, get great exposure on social media outlets (a user’s status is updated at the time of purchase), and can make the connection between in-store and online behavior. While many companies are still struggling with social media ROI, this small ice cream chain is taking the challenge and making the first move. Mashable’s Jennier Van Grove pointed out that what Tasti D-Lite is creating is essentially social media currency – earnings made through social media activity, that are of great value in both the real world and the online world, too. Early examples of social currency include having your tweet "retweeted," because it helps gain exposure online, and adds to a user’s online reputation. Van Grove wrote, "Its efforts will motivate other stores and restaurants to adopt similar programs, which could even create a social media loyalty competition between businesses in the same market, with companies upping the social media rewards to beat their competition. All of sudden your online social value will be worth more than just a retweet." By including Foursquare in the program, Tasti D-Lite is also spreading the word and encouraging the use of location-based social media programs. Though it is currently limited to certain major cities, Foursquare is on theverge of expanding into smaller markets, where it would no doubt be received with open arms (or iPhones). If more retail and restaurant chains follow Tasti D-Lite’s lead...

To read more about Tasti-D Lite and loyalty programs, go to Sparxoo, a digital marketing, branding and business development blog.