Chase & Living Social Put a Cheap Price on Small Biz Social Capital

If you own a small biz, Living Social and Chase have put a price on your Social Capital. Guess what? You are a really cheap date. Pardon me as I tip my mom hat askew and don my social media costume for a moment. I’m bugged. I have a whistle to blow.

For the past week plus I’ve been  an odd mix of proud of and perturbed by all the requests for votes in Chase/Living Social’s “Mission Small Business” campaign.  As an entrepreneur myself,  I have a vast network of small biz owner friends. My inboxes are flooded.

Kudos to my pals.  They’ve written brilliant descriptions about their clever and awesome projects and products, in the hopes that they will be chosen to receive $250,000 worth of seed money to jump start their biz. To them, that is a lot. It would be to me and my own small biz as well. But I chose not to enter, even though I would love the cash to do more, and we actually bank with Chase for the biz (note: service has been extraordinarly meh-average there).

I chose not to enter because I spotted a ruse. Here’s a link to a post I wrote a long time ago about voting campaigns in the blogging community. Not much has changed since then other than the net widening to include other individuals and groups (small biz) that possess significant social capital for a brand to try and exploit.

I should note that I don’t think poorly of anyone who did enter. I think all of my friends who entered are worthy of that cash and I have enthusiastically voted for them repeatedly. This despite the fact that they are looking at competition from tens of thousands of other small businesses. I believe in them and their businesses. Enough to spend some of my own social capitol and precious time on them.

But do Chase and Living Social believe in small biz, really? Really?

I wanted to write a post about the raw economics of this campaign but I found one that was really better than I could have put it so I’m linking here to a very salient post that you really should read about what Chase and Living Social have at stake, and what they’re’ willing to spend to “support” small biz.  In a word: “Pocket Lint”.

On the other hand, lets look at what small biz owners are willing to spend in order for the chance, however slight, to get this kind of $.

Social capital.

Social capital and good faith are exactly what is lacking from Chase and Living Social’s accounts right now. For them, this campaign is a stroke of genius. Who has better loyalty and faith than small biz owners who have struggled to stay afloat in this difficult economy? They have gathered impressive mailing lists, they have vast social networks of followers on Facebook and Twitter. They have nurtured these sort of trusting relationships and have worked hard to put that faith in their dollar strapped account. In many ways that is as important as cash. Small businesses may not have much to work with, but many are rich in social capitol. Social capital that is worth a fortune to them, considering the time and effort it takes to amass it. But to Chase and Living Social, it’s worth pennies. Tens of thousands of businesses sending daily reminders, emails, tweets… literally pennies when you break it down.

Small businesses are spending their social capital on this campaign for what amounts to a few cents. For me, it wasn’t worth it.  I’m not a gambler. It’s hard to keep that Social capital account full and I’m not sure my followers would not abandon me when they saw how cheap I’d sell them out for a vote. I’m far more understanding of the stuggles of my fellow biz owners than most of my followers (and possibly theirs) would ever be.

By running this campaign as a voting contest and getting small biz to spend their social capital, on behalf of Chase and Living Social’s overall campaign goals of garnering good will, I believe Chase and Living Social have denigrated small businesses. They’ve treated them like a really cheap and easy date. Worse, they are asking them and asking them to pay the bill.

You might have thought that you can’t put a price on good will, but apparently you can: 3 million bucks. Consider this against the marketing budget for TV ads, print and other media efforts.

Despite sounding a little bitter, I’m still going to continue to follow and vote for my friends and keep my fingers crossed for them. I’d really like for them to win, for them. They rock and they deserve it. Chase & Living Social, on the other hand, have lost me. I hate the way they are making my pals jump through hoops. I’d love to switch banks. I don’t want to support Chase & Living Social due to this campaign. We all need authentic support of small business by banks and brands. Not this sort of carefully calculated social usury.


  1. says

    Fantastic post! I agree that it is so unfortunate that big companies (banks in this case) don’t take Social Media seriously. I wonder if the companies that have experienced the wrath/sting of a social media out cry would take it for granted and not appreciate it for it’s value.

  2. Kim Prince says

    You are a better friend and supporter than I am, because I flat out refuse to vote, no matter how much I love the people who are competing. In ANY of these online voting contests. And I have refused to publicize my own inclusion in them when it has happened, which was always without me even knowing.

  3. says

    I actually disagree, here. I HATE voting “contests” and I both refuse to enter them and we, as an organization, refuse to host them. However, this particular campaign was positioned differently. It was not about how many votes you could garner; rather, proof that you could reach 250 votes, period. They positioned it as wanting demonstrable proof of your customer/client base and — yes — social capital. I think that’s a completely valid requirement. Especially because they allowed login via FB (they weren’t collecting email addresses).

    That said, I think the voting process would have been a far less devious requirement/request to make AFTER the initial small businesses in-the-running had been selected.

    All in all, I don’t believe this was a “highest votes wins” type situation, which is why we participated.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!


  4. says

    I have to agree with you that it is pretty bothersome when companies take advantage of bloggers/online businesses/small businesses to market for them for essentially nothing. You bring up some points here I hadn’t thought of – thanks for the interesting article. I will also still vote for the 10’s of requests I got for this Chase thing, but hope it’s the businesses that really come out ahead, not Chase. At least I can dream!

  5. Brian Maso says

    Here’s something you might consider doing that would be more fun and actually easier than participating in the Living Social/Chase small business campaign: collect $0.05 (5 cents) for each one of the 250 people who you would hope would vote for you (that’s $12.50). Now go to Las Vegas and bet it all on a single number on the roulette wheel. If you win (1:40 chance), bet all your winnings (that’s $500) again on the roulette wheel. If you win (1:1600 chance) you now have $20k for your small business! Your chances of achieving this windfall are nearly even. Your chances with the Living Social/Chase contest are hundreds of times worse. Simply put: the Living Social/Chase campaign’s payoff is truly awful for the small business contestant.

    I also note that Chase most certainly is collecting personal information about the contest entrants as well as voters. The Chase spin on it is “getting to know you better” (the article Ciaran links to is a little more detailed:

    I can’t help but be much more negative about this campaign than you Kristy. Chase is spending $1Mil-$3Mil only on contest prizes — quite literally a rounding error as far as such a huge bank is concerned — remember that JP Morgan Chase are the guys who recently accidentally lost $2Bil (that’s $2,000Mil), and claimed it wouldn’t really hit their bottom line? Spritzing a couple million dollars on the humongous ocean of small business is an extremely cheap way of getting a lot of personal contacts and personal information.

  6. says

    Momfluential, thanks for your thoughts and impressions. I like what you said about social capital. I am a contestant and got my 250 votes. I would hope that Chase will do US business right, and lead anyone on. Banks are already in the doghouse – they owe something to the American public. One benefit of the contest was that I used my ‘social capital’ to broadcast the release of my new upcoming software company to my colleagues and contacts. That is how I got my 250 votes – – people that I actually know and will be supportive of my efforts in the future. I didn’t appreciate watching the Twitter circus where contestants just voted for each other – – something that i don’t think should have been allowed. Seemed to go against the spirit of the contest. Do you agree?

  7. says

    Ciaran, you expressed how I feel so well! Excellent post! I think I’m a crummy friend because I don’t vote for anyone. I refuse to do it or best blogs, etc..

  8. says

    Well said. I had been feeling this for the past couple of weeks as I kept getting bombarded by voting request after voting request but wasn´t able to pinpoint why it all bothered me so much. Of course…social capital! I kept feeling that maybe I was being dumb to not get in the running, but my gut kept telling me it just wasn´t worth it. Of course not! I self-promote enough as it is, to now go beg for votes for a “gamble.”
    And that’s why I continue on the slowest path, but, hopefully, the more sturdy one

  9. says

    Interesting points. I really hadn’t given it much thought beyond helping out my friends with their small businesses. Naive, maybe. Hopeful, always.

  10. Kimberly P2p says

    I was not aware that this was going on. I don’t like the thought of voting to qualify for money.

  11. Presleyspantry says

    Lucky for me I only had one friend asking for a vote….. Not directly but posted it on her wall along with pictures of her grandma and baby… I thought it was crazy cruel hope the bank had given my struggling friend who so desperately needed a $$$ lift…. I hope she wins…. but I doubt it.


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