Social coupons are the hottest new old thing on the web today.

With Google maybe/probably coughing up $6,000,000,000 (yeah, that’s billion) for Groupon, Amazon investing in or buying LivingSocial, Baidu launching a group buying engine, eBay buying Milo, WhaleShark Media buying Retailmenot to add to their portfolio of Deals.com and CouponShare.com and everyone else and his dog investing in or buying or building group purchasing deal features …. this is hot.

But seriously.

Coupons are OK. I mean, everyone likes saving money. And group deals are cool … if we can all save money together, isn’t everyone a little happier?

But with all the hype, let’s remember a few important things:

  • Coupons are a feature
    First of all, from a business (and technology) point of view, coupons are a feature, not a platform. Meaning they need to hook into an existing engine.

    The genius of Groupon (and the genius of the entire RESTful, API-centric, connected web2.0-3.0 world) is that they connected with the Facebook platform to drive unprecedented growth. Look for that to get a little harder if they’re owned by Facebook’s arch-rival Google in the future.

    But the point is: it’s not the whole enchilada. It’s a piece of the pie (so if you’re going to do coupons, you better have a pie, not just a cherry).

  • Coupons aren’t for everyone
    Having mixed metaphors fearlessly up to this point, let’s just say this: Coupon Ron is not your preferred client. While there’s no doubt that coupons are a great marketing move for some businesses, you are not going to drive long-term profitable growth based on couponing.

    By definition, Coupon Ron is fickle … he’ll go to whoever has the latest coupon. That means he’s used to getting a discount. If you’re not giving him one, he’s probably not shopping/eating/consuming/buying your services or products. And that means he’s a low-margin client.

    In other words, coupons are not the playing card that a merchant who’s dealing from a position of strength throws down.

So … coupons are great and cool, but there’s a LOT more to commerce, e-commerce, local commerce, social commerce, and any other form of commerce.

And that’s something we’d all do well to remember when the tulip bulb craziness hits.