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Updated: An ex-Facebooker is looking to clip the multi-billion-dollar, daily-deals industry where it hurts by *gasp* putting local businesses back in control of their own discount destinies. Groupon and clones, meet thruSocial: the first “self-serve” media advertising and deals platform for businesses.
Launching Monday, thruSocial offers neighborhood pizza places and Pilates studios a one-stop platform to create their own promotions, which the company distributes to social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as its own consumer-end deals site, thrupons.com.
The Silicon Valley startup is the brainchild of Karel Baloun, one of the earliest engineers to work for Facebook and the founder of I2we, a Facebook custom application developer. ThruSocial allows clients to manage their social media campaigns through a single SaaS platform. A client crafts a promotion using the platform’s plug-and-chug template, and thruSocial distributes the deal in the form of digital coupons sent to the client’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers, who can in turn share the deal with as many friends (virtual or carbon based) as they care to. When consumers click on the coupon, they end up at thrupons.com, where they can search for more targeted deals by location and category. The company operates on a subscription model. For $35 per month, a business can create unlimited promotions and trick out their Facebook pages via thruSocial’s custom Facebook page design templates. (The company is offering a free trial for the next 30 days.)
A New Deal?
ThruSocial bills itself as the most practical, and least costly, solution out there for small and medium-sized business looking to reel in customers with some good old-fashioned advertising. And there is no doubt today’s media landscape can be quite frustrating for the average retailer or restaurateur.
Gone are the days when an ad in the Pennysaver section of the Town Gazette was all it took to bring hordes of hungry diners in for half-off flapjacks at the Pancake Palace (one coupon per order, cannot be combined with any other discount). But while eyeballs have shifted online, traditional click-through advertising is a costly bust for most small enterprises (especially those without websites). Meanwhile, a well-executed social media strategy can bring local businesses buzz and even customers. But does the average “Tony” of Tony’s Number One NY Pizza in Sheboygan, Wis. really know how to maximize his personal brand using Twitter?
And then there’s Groupon. The daily-deals giant has been something of a mixed bag for businesses. By requiring 50 percent discounts and keeping 50 percent of the revenue, merchants must actually discount their services by 75 percent. While many businesses have happily agreed to Groupon’s terms and still turned a profit, others have reportedly been left with a depleted inventory and bills to show for it.
The entry of players like Google Offers and Facebook Deals into the market leaves little doubt the industry remains very profitable for its players. “The reason there are so many clones out there is because there is a lot of money to be made very quickly,” said Steve Arentzoff, thruSocial’s VP of marketing. “But it’s not sustainable when businesses aren’t coming back for a second round,” he said. “Groupon’s business model really works for Groupon. But thruSocial is going to work for everyone else.”
Update: The thruSocial consumer portal can be found at thrupons.com, not thrupon.com as initially stated.