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Tasti D-Lite rewards customers who tweet

FRANKLIN Tenn. Tasti D-Lite has introduced an integrated program utilizing both social-media and standard guest loyalty initiatives called TastiRewards, in a unique move that could showcase the potential to be gained by harmonizing the two workhorses of modern marketing.

Customers who sign up for a Tasti TreatCard, and register that loyalty program card with either their Twitter or Foursquare profiles, will earn extra points toward a free purchase. In addition, an automatic update will be posted to that user’s Twitter or Foursquare profile with every registered purchase, saying, “I just earned TastiRewards points at Tasti D-Lite.”

Best of all for Tasti D-Lite, said chief executive Jim Amos, the brand can track exactly how many purchases resulted in social-media impressions, and a concrete dollar amount can be affixed to its social-media efforts.

“A lot of folks in the business world still don’t yet quite understand social-media ROI [return on investment],” Amos said. “You can measure every initiative you have. Tasti D-Lite can collect all this data and analyze how we allocate our resources to social media as part of our marketing efforts. You can quantify this social-media data with sales figures, plus you can track changes over time. It’s really sophisticated for such a consumer-driven effort.”

Tasti D-Lite rolled out the new program Jan. 14 to 10 units in Houston, Miami Beach and other markets. A national rollout is expected this spring. Currently, purchases with a Tasti TreatCard earn users 1 point for every dollar spent, and 50 points qualifies them for a free medium cup or cone.

The company said the new initiative will help customers share praise for Tasti D-Lite online even when they may not have the smart phones or mobile devices needed to do so in a store at the point of purchase. With TastiRewards, that praise is registered automatically to thousands of friends and followers, the company said.

“It’s an interesting dynamic,” said BJ Emerson, Tasti D-Lite’s director of information and social technologies. “There’s been a tremendous response with this already. We think it’s a win-win all the way around.”

Tasti D-Lite already is exploring upgrades to the system, such as allowing custom messages for redemptions, integration with Facebook, or a method of rewarding cardholders for referring friends, Emerson said. He added that a fairly low cost drove the program’s return on investment further.

“Relatively speaking, it was not a significant investment in terms of money,” Emerson said. “But it was a couple years in the making in terms of forming strategic partnerships with key vendors. Our POS provider, pcAmerica, really enabled us to do this.”

Tasti D-Lite, which was acquired in 2007 by New York-based private-equity firm SPG Partners LLC, currently has 47 locations, most of them franchised. The chain said it added development agreements in 2009 for more than 300 units, which would bring the chain above its goal of 500 locations over the next few years.

The brand, which started in New York City in 1987 and expanded there on the strength of its popularity among celebrities, always has tried to cultivate a loyal fan base, Amos said, and its more coordinated social-media and rewards program would help solidify those efforts.

“Word-of-mouth was always the best PR you could have in business, and really, all these social communities are an exponentially expansive word-of-mouth undertaking,” Amos said. “You have to be diligent about listening to customers and reflecting the spirit and etiquette of that community. You don’t just re-tweet everything somebody says about the brand. You want to represent the attitude of the customer.”

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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