In Great Britain, 61% of adults used the internet for social networking in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics, but these sites aren’t just for keeping in touch with far-flung family and friends; they’re increasingly being used to boost your finances; from complaining to companies on Twitter, to selling your wares on Instagram.
Here are our top tips on how social media can help stretch the pound in your pocket.
1. Get your consumer complaints resolved - fast
Twitter and Facebook are fast becoming alternative avenues for complaints. The fact you’ve named and shamed the company in public may even help you to get a quicker response.
The day I wrote this feature, I spotted someone complaining on Twitter to a well-known supermarket that their bacon sandwich was literally taking the bacon by not including any of the streaky stuff – a picture of the offending meal was posted for all to see.
A mere two minutes later, the supermarket responded by asking for more information and promising the customer they would not be left out of pocket.
I, too, have used Twitter to complain. I once huffed and puffed about a train being cancelled, only for the rail operator to speedily respond telling me how I could claim compensation.
Moneywise’s special projects editor Rachel Lacey has also used Twitter to challenge private parking fines and to track down missing toy parts.
Many banks also have teams on hand 24/7 to answer your questions via social media. Just remember to write directly on the company’s Facebook page or link to their Twitter handle in your tweet to improve your chance of getting a response. And never compromise your identity; don’t post your bank details or other sensitive information online.
2. Look out for a new job
If you want to find a new job, join LinkedIn and set up an online CV, then connect with former colleagues and other professionals in your field. You can also use LinkedIn to search for jobs.
For a localised search, follow your nearest Jobcentre Plus on Twitter for job adverts in your area, and ‘like’ their Facebook pages for updates.
3. Make money selling crafts or unwanted goods
You can sell anything from old clothes to furniture using Facebook. It’s completely free and Facebook doesn’t take a cut of any earnings made. Just find a local sales group in your area, click ‘Sell Something’, fill out the details of what you’re selling with a price, and click ‘Post’.
If you want to save money on postage, stipulate that items are for collection only – just be safe about where you meet the buyer.
Instagram is also a tool for promoting and selling homemade crafts and wares, as it’s all about photos. Caption your picture with relevant hashtags so people can find what they’re looking for.
4. Get money news and tips
Follow the national newspapers, money-saving websites and money-saving blogs on Twitter, and ‘like’ their Facebook pages and you’ll be first to hear of any news. From utility bill price hikes to top savings accounts being launched, if you’re among the first in the know you can be among the first to do something about it.
5. Promote your business
If you’ve got a business, no matter how large or small, social media can be an excellent form of free advertising, as well as a way to interact with your customers and get feedback from them.
Joanne Larner, (above) a 58-year- old osteopath from Rayleigh in Essex, puts part of the success of her first book down to social media. She self- published Richard Liveth Yet – a novel about Richard III set in the present time – on Amazon last May. But she notices a spike in e-book downloads as soon as she mentions the novel on her Twitter account, on her glob, or on her LinkedIn page. When she doesn’t post on social media, her sales go down.
Joanne advises others in a similar position “to find your target audience”.
As she is passionate about the history of Richard III, she regularly chats to like-minded people in relevant Facebook groups and uses this as an avenue to promote her book.
However, she warns that you shouldn’t only use these groups for self-promotion or no one will take an interest. Joanne says you need to actively engage and interact with people.
6. Nab discounts and freebies
Whether you’re heading out for a meal, planning a holiday, or buying a birthday present – try to get a discount first. Follow the likes of @vouchercodesuk and @MSE_Deals on Twitter to arm yourself with the best bargains.
And never miss out on a freebie by following the tweets of @LatestFreeStuff. It says it features samples and freebies given away by Dove, Colgate, Gillette, Fairy, Olay, Boots, Tesco and more.
Alternatively, all of these deals websites have their own Facebook pages, too.
7. Get recommendations for local services
Whether it’s a plumber, electrician or a hairdresser you’re after, type it into the search bar on Facebook alongside your location, and a number of relevant local companies should pop up. Then click on their pages to read more about them, including any reviews people have left.
If you’ve built up a following on Twitter post a comment asking if anyone can recommend services in your area. Or if you are on Facebook, see if there is a group for where you live – these can be a good source of local knowledge.
8. Join in with online forums to discuss and encourage saving money
Forums are a huge online resource where users discuss ideas, post tips, and provide encouragement to each other. Plus you don’t even have to post on forums – you should be able to simply ‘lurk’ and read other people’s comments.
The MoneySavingExpert.com and LegalBeagles.info forums are a great place to start for general money- saving and money-making tips. You can also target specific forums depending on the help you’re after.
Tripadvisor.co.uk, for example, can be a helpful source of holiday saving advice.
Just be aware that people posting may not be experts and their opinions shouldn’t always be acted upon.
Top social networking sites to join
These are our pick of the top social networking sites to join.You can use all of these on an internet browser, or download them as smartphone apps.
- Facebook: A way to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to you using words, pictures and videos.
- Instagram: Share your life through pictures.
- Linkedin: Build your professional identity online and stay connected with others in your field.
- Twitter: Share ideas and information instantly in no more than 140 characters.
Follow our team on social media
To find out the latest personal finance news, money-making tricks and other top tips, or to let us know your thoughts and feedback:
- ‘Like’ our Facebook page Moneywiseonline
- Follow @Moneywiseonline on Twitter
- Follow Moneywise editor @MoiraONeill and deputy editor @HelenKnapman on Twitter.