Zen and the The Art of FREE in Social Media

Giving out “Freebies” to potential customers is nothing new in marketing. From the sausage lady at the grocery store to the guy at the trade show throwing t-shirts to anyone he can see, businesses have been using the art of the FREE Gift as a means to a sales end. Social media is no different. One of the best ways to attract new leads is by giving people a reason to want to get to know you. If you offer something of value at no charge and without expectation, you can begin to develop a following of people with similar interests and some of those interests may be you.

Harnessing the power of this age-old technique sounds easy but there are some things that you need to know before you put your offer out there.

  1. Create a Welcoming Environment
    Before you even consider a giveaway you need to do a little housekeeping because the real trick to this ancient art is retention. You can entice just about anyone with a free giveaway but you want to make sure that after the luster of the FREE gift has worn off, the recipients of your generous gift want to stick around. Making sure that your website is pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate will instill a level of comfort in your giftees to be and if you top that comfort off with appealing content you will be well on your way to reaching that “sticky” goal.
  2. Make it Useful
    Making sure that your FREE gift is useful is another way to keep people coming back for more. Don’t just put something out there, slap an interesting title on it and “Dup” people into cluttering their hard drives with a bunch of specially packaged uselessness. If you are looking for more than just the fly-by-night internet surfer who thinks anything free is where to be, make sure that what you offer can have real use made of it. I am not saying that you won’t get those types of people showing up with their hand out as soon as they hear you are giving something away, because you will. But making something useful helps ensure that you will attract more serious people who will be more likely to stick around after the giveaway is over.
  3. Provide Quality
    Just because it is FREE does not mean it should be “cheap”. Make sure that what you offer has value. Offer something that people would be willing to pay for if you were not giving it away. Offering this type of premium product for FREE will serve to enhance the value of your other content and if people like what they see, they will be inclined to come back for more and then you will have them. At that point you will either be able to sell them on your other offerings or make use of them as evangelists for your brand.
  4. Offer Value
    I know what you are thinking, this is free, how much more value do I need to give them, right? Well, value means more than just cost. If you are offering a product, it should not be on an “As Is” basis. Be willing to offer some level of support for the product, after all this kind of customer interaction is exactly what you were looking for when you got into social media in the first place. Taking the time to answer simple questions or help people with bugs will go along way toward solidifying them as a potential customer, product evangelist or at very least a valuable marketing resource that you can go to when developing new products or services to offer in the global marketplace.
  5. No Strings
    Many offers out there require people to jump through hoops in order to get the FREE product but in my experience, this often has the opposite effect. You will either end up with people giving you fake information or they will take one look at the requirements and leave, never to return again. Now it is not uncommon to have people register on a mailing list in order to get the FREEBIE because in these cases, building a list is the whole reason for the offer as well as the basis for the interaction you seek. The best option when possible is to give away your FREEBIE with no strings attached, but if you are going to require anything for people to get their free gift, make it as simple as possible. Name and Email address should be more than enough (and for those of you truly in the global marketplace, country might also be a good item to capture). The bottom line is, the fewer restrictions that are placed as obstacles in the way of your intended audience the better.

With these little nuggets of wisdom in mind, go forth and create the perfect FREE item that will help you build your audience. And as you establish your following you can begin developing new ways to maximize the results for your social media objectives .