The brands that have enjoyed the most success using social media to drive consumers toward purchases follow one of two paths: Either they offer coupons or discounts, or they position themselves in front of consumers during sales or other special events, according to eMarketer.

One-quarter of respondents to a survey conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey said that coupons and discounts were the primary reason they became fans of a brand on Facebook.

An additional 21 percent said it was because they were already customers. Another survey, by Morpace, found that 37 percent of Facebook users joined fan pages because they wanted to get coupons and discounts.

"Coupons remain a leading driver of brand interactions in social networks," said eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson. "At the same time, they can be one of the trickiest social media tactics to pull off. The discount offer must print or download easily and must work as promised. And the retail store or distribution channel must be prepared for demand."

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