Remember when the only game most people had on their computer was solitaire? Although some people became addicted, for most, the reward of winning wasn’t great enough to waste hours of the day.Solitaire

Twenty-or-so years later, the games on our phones can literally have detrimental effects on some peoples’ social lives. One of the reasons people become so hooked on popular iPhone and Android games like Temple Run and Angry Birds is the built-in reward system. In Temple Run, for example, the player collects coins that allow them to unlock new players and special skills. The more you play, the more powers your character accumulates.

Imagine if you could create those same sort of incentives for your business, where the more people interact with you online, the more rewards they receive, both literal and virtual. That’s the idea behind a growing handful of loyalty apps, designed to encourage customer retention in the same way that a ‘Buy 8 sandwiches, get 1 free’ promotion might work at a deli.

If you’re interested in getting a loyalty program started for your company’s social media outreach, here are a few places to start:


Perhaps the most developed of social media loyalty apps, PunchTab gives its clients the option of offering their own real rewards (free or discounted merchandise), PunchTab-provided rewards (gift certificates to merchants like Starbucks and, or even ‘badges’ that have no real value, but are marketed as ‘virtual bling’ for a user’s profile. Think of these like stickers and it’s possible to see the appeal for companies whose customer base consists of teenagers and tweens.

By re-Tweeting on Twitter, giving a +1 on Google+, or clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook, the user earns points that they can ‘spend’ on badges. Points and badges can also build up toward the chance to win prizes from the client business.

PunchTab is quickly incorporating their programs into traditional websites and across the social media spectrum, already attracting clients like Unilever, Wal-Mart and Arby’s.


Although Perkville plays second fiddle to PunchTab amongst loyalty apps, their simplicity may prove to be an asset in their growth. Client businesses choose how to award points to customers and online users. A status update that mentions the company might earn 10 points, while a referral for a ‘Like’ from a friend might earn 20. Purchases earn points as well.

All those points add up to real monetary discounts. For example, a business might offer $20 off a purchase for accumulating 200 points. Users can track their point total online and with their smartphone, receiving a voucher coupon from Perkville when they cash in their points.


With Google’s recent purchase of Wildfire, it remains to be seen how this social media-linking loyalty software develops. Tying together a company’s promotions on an array of networks, from LinkedIn to YouTube to Pinterest (and the usual suspects), Wildfire’s options are virtually endless, allowing users to customize sweepstakes giveaways, limited-time coupons, and even photo, video and essay contests. If you’re looking to launch a contest across multiple platforms, reaching the maximum number of followers, Google’s Wildfire is an exciting and quickly growing new option.


Facebook bought this pioneer company back in April, which combines a smartphone app with a physical plastic scanner that participating businesses keep at their register. Just like a customer might get their card stamped each time they make a purchase, TagTile allows the accumulation to be tracked digitally on a phone. Since its buy-out, however, the company has only been servicing existing customers, and it remains to be seen what Facebook decides to do with the technology.


The original ‘check in’ app is working hard to continue its impressive growth, encouraging participating businesses to increase the discounts they offer users who use their phone or device to check in with FourSquare when they’re physically present at a business. Because checking in can attract other FourSquare users to meet their friends, businesses from restaurants to yoga studios have offered ‘2 for 1’ and significant discounts to FourSquare users.


Bridging the gap between traditional rewards cards and their digital successors, this app is designed for consumers more than businesses, allowing users to scan and save all of their loyalty cards into the app. That means no more carrying multiple cards in your wallet. Created and operated from Belgium, the app has gained traction in Europe. It’s growth in the U.S. may be determined by its ability to integrate digital rewards programs into the app.

Have you tried any of these new apps and programs as either a consumer or business owner? Would you recommend them to a business you support as a digital rewards program?

Author Bio: Industry veteran Anita Brady is the President, a leading provider of high quality customizable items like customizable business cards, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.