Brands Offer Free Food and Gobble Up Facebook Fans

It’s no surprise that a recent Razorfish survey of online consumers shows that many are following Facebook brand pages to take advantage of the freebies that pages are offering to increase their fan numbers, and nowhere is that trend more evident than with restaurants and food brands on Facebook. Free food offers are popping up all over Facebook, and the food-for-fans campaigns are returning big numbers for those brands.

The Razorfish survey revealed that of the 1,000 users polled, 40% are following brands on Facebook or MySpace, with 44% of that number citing freebies and deals as the main reason for becoming fans of any given brand. We’ve been tracking the numbers for many of the brands and restaurants offering free food in exchange for becoming fans of their Facebook pages for a while, and these campaign are some of the  more successful ones out there when it comes to increasing follower numbers. Indeed, we just noticed that two brands running free-food campaigns had some of the fastest-growing Facebook pages this page week.

Outback Steakhouse Trades Bloomin Onions For Followers

One of the current free-food offers running on Facebook is from Outback Steakhouse, which is serving up a coupon for a free Bloomin Onion with the purchase of an entree to the first 500,000 people who become fans of the page. So far, the campaign has created a following of nearly 125,000 fans, with more than 100,000 joining the page since the launch of the free Bloomin Onion offer last week — and bringing it into our top 20 pages list,  yesterday.

Papa John’s Continues To Push It’s Page Through Freebies

Pizza maker Papa John’s is no stranger to successful Facebook campaigns, and its latest offer gives new fans a free medium pizza with a minimum online order of $10. Papa John‘s teamed with mega-brand Coke earlier this year to give new fans a shot at tickets to the NCAA Men’s Final Four, and the brand was one of the first to experience real success with a food for fans campaign with a previous offer for free pizza. It grew by 259,000 fans last week to reach 696,000 as of yesterday.

Starbucks Finds New Fans While Promoting New Products

Starbucks recently ran a successful campaign this summer that had a two-fold positive effect for the brand — the coffee company was able to rope in new Facebook fans and get the word out about its new line of ice creams. The Starbucks campaign did not require Facebook users to become fans of the page to take advantage of the coupon offer, but it obviously drove a considerable amount of traffic to the already popular page. As of today, the page has 4.97 million fans, the seventh-largest page on Facebook overall.

Free Hot Sauce Becomes A Hot Item For Texas Pete

Popular hot sauce maker Texas Pete offered 10,000 bottles of its product to Facebook users and quickly ran through the supply. The success of the campaign fueled another push for more fans, and the brand is aiming to reach 100,000 fans by Nov. 15th, at which point they’ll offer a coupon featuring a buy one get one free offer.

Woody Brings In Nearly 1 Million Fans For T.G.I. Friday’s

By far one of the most popular recent free food offers involved the T.G.I Friday’s chain of restaurants, which used an original character named Woody to gather fans on the the promise of a free Jack Daniel’s sandwich. The campaign was one of the few to offer a freebie with no strings attached, and the goal of 500,000 fans was quickly eclipsed, causing T.G.I Friday’s to reevaluate its goals. The brand put a lot of money and effort into the push for fans, and is the only time we’ve seen a Facebook promotion for free food cross over into TV ads.

Facebook users have shown that they are willing to fan almost any page offering free food, but it’s then up to those brands to maintain their fans through interesting and engaging pages. While many of the fans taking advantage of the freebies are probably already users of the products, Facebook offers a new opportunity to bring in new consumers. Without an engaging, interactive page, however, new users may just jump on board for the free offer and then drop the page once they’ve collected their prize. Brands need to also be careful about over-engagement — nothing will make Facebook users quit a brand page faster than a flood of unnecessary posts in their news feeds. It’s up to each brand to find that balance to continue to grow its page once it has hooked fans with free offers.

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