All these people would like an ipad. Does that make them potential customers?

Last week, I was sitting in a traffic jam on one of London’s major roads. To my left is a huge development under way, several high rise blocks being clad in shiny glass and steel.

And around the outside of the site hoardings, a bright banner advertising off plan sales of the new apartments, and inviting me to “follow {the developer} on Facebook to win an IPad!”.

That developer isn’t alone, by any means; most weeks I notice more than one advert offering a similar “bribe”, in magazines, window posters, or even on Facebook or Twitter.

Those companies are not just using their Facebook Competition in a really lazy, poorly thought out way, but they’re actively making trouble and expense for themselves further down the line. Here’s why.

What’s the point of a Facebook Giveaway?

Back to basics, why does anyone give stuff away on Facebook? Unless they’ve woken up one morning blocked into their house by a mountain of unwanted IPads, it’s because they want to attract people to Like their Facebook page.

But that’s where it starts to go wrong. In fact, MOST companies don’t really want “people” to Like their Facebook page; they want potential customers to Like their Facebook page.

How big the gap is between “people” and “potential customers” does depend to an extent on what your product or service is. If you’re selling multi million pound yachts (or expensive flats in London), it’s pretty big. If you’re selling crisps, it’s smaller – although some people may not particularly like crisps, yours might be so great that they do like them, and at least it’s fair to say that most people have a use for them (eating) and can afford them.

Most companies though, aren’t making FMCG products.

So what those companies are actually doing, every time they have some kind of generic giveaway, is building a big audience of people who like IPads. Great if you’re Apple, less so if you’re building apartments.

And as building that audience is just step one of the process, they then have a hard time keeping that audience engaged; after a few posts about yachts or flats, the “Un-Like” statistics will start going in entirely the wrong direction.

And then the bills start

But as I said at the beginning, there’s even worse news if you’ve built an audience that way. A year or two back, you’d have just wasted the money you spent on that IPad, and probably seen your hard earned audience dwindle over time. Since the Facebook News Feed algorithm changes though, it’s actually going to cost you money to get your posts in front of all those people who are never going to buy your product.

We know that “organic” (free, to you and I) reach has been decimated since the end of last year, so paying Facebook, at least some of the time, to get your Posts out there, is a necessary evil. That’s one thing if you know that your audience is a relevant and receptive one. As soon as you run a “generic” giveaway, you’re building up a mix of “people” and “potential customers” – and there’s no way to separate those once you have to start paying to reach them.

How to improve your Facebook giveways by 100%

To avoid this, businesses need to be a LOT more strategic in their choice of giveaway. In fact, the best possible giveaway item is one that will appeal to the FEWEST people –  but those people who absolutely love your product or service.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Going back to my developer, they could have offered the same value as the IPad, but in free conveyancing on your flat purchase. Completely useless to anyone not considering buying one of those flats, but very valuable to anyone who is.

Giving away your own product, or something very closely related to it (like the conveyancing) is usually the best place to start with a giveaway – not only does it guarantee that the Likers are keen on what you do, it’s also likely to have a lower direct cost to you than buying someone else’s product! It’s also a good idea to think about the things you can provide that money can’t usually buy. For example, rather than just giving away tickets to your event or show, provide some VIP privileges along with them.

So, start thinking smarter about what you can offer that will attract your die hard fans. It’ll make the world of difference.