Freebies on Facebook – An Interview with HeyItsFree's Ryan Eubanks

What better place than among your friends to find free stuff? As soon as someone gets a tip on something, they are sure to pass it along their social network first, right? Surprisingly, the freebie game has not lit up on Facebook just yet. Sites like slickdeals.net, dealcatcher.com and redflagdeals.ca don’t really have much of a Facebook presence, and it’s somewhat surprising. That doesn’t mean that Facebook isn’t affecting these sites. Here, we talk with Ryan Eubanks from HeyItsFree.net, a site dedicated to alerting people to free giveaways on the web, and ask him about how Facebook has changed his business.

AllFacebook: What sort of freebie promotions are there that use Facebook? Are they all “become a fan and get one free”, or are there other types?

Ryan Eubanks: The majority of Facebook freebies tend to be along the lines of “become a fan and get X free.” Sometimes the requirements are taken one step further, such as vote for your favorite commercial or help pick a new product flavor, but those are in the minority.

Some offers require a certain event to occur. For instance, I’m a Green Bay Packers fan and thus had nobody to root for in this years Super Bowl. However, Louisiana Hot Sauce was willing to give away samples of their product, but only if the New Orleans Saints won. The Indianapolis Colts had no similar offer, so I cheered for the Saints this past Sunday and watched as they won myself and thousands of others a freebie!

Some of the most successful Facebook freebies to date have taken an entirely unique approach. The most popular Facebook freebie was easily from Burger King in 2009. They were giving away coupons for a free Whopper in exchange for sacrificing (unfriending) 10 of your friends. The offer became a viral hit and made the front pages of sites like Techcrunch and Huffington Post, as well as AllFacebook!

AF: Have you noticed any big brands giving away Facebook freebies, or is it smaller companies?

RE: Plenty of large brands offer Facebook freebies. In 2010 alone, Oreo has given away a quarter of a million packages of Double Stuf cookies, Dove offered free Body Mist spray, and Babies R Us handed out $5 giftcards. Uniball Pens is holding an on-going offer where they’re giving away 10,000 pens daily. Some past freebie providers have included Tide, Outback Steakhouse, iTunes, Papa John’s Pizza, Walgreens, and Chick-fil-A.

There are always a number of smaller companies running campaigns, but they tend to have a limited quantity of freebies available. Take the Louisiana Hot Sauce offer I mentioned earlier. They only had 8,000 samples available, which were exhausted within hours. The larger companies are far better equipped to run big Facebook campaigns.

AF: Is there any company that stands out as often using Facebook freebies?

RE: As of now, the field is wide open. There are some brands, such as Wheat Thins, that constantly have some sort of free coupon available. There are also regional chains, like Quick Chek and Kum & Go, that have started offering monthly coupons for free drinks and sandwiches. I could rattle off a list of companies that have run multiple offers, but there isn’t any particular nationwide company that dominates Facebook freebies. Chances are that no matter who you are, a company whose product you regularly use has already given away multiple freebies on Facebook.

As more and more companies begin reaching out to their users, I’d guess that within a few short months there’ll be a clear leader in the market. Until then, myself and others are happy watching so many different companies vie for the top spot!

AF: Do Facebook giveaways do better than other giveaways on your site?

RE: When Facebook freebies first came onto the scene, not many people were excited about them. Plainly put, the average reader of my site is a working professional with a family and they didn’t have Facebook accounts. They viewed Facebook as something for kids or people in college. However, over the course of the last year, I’d say that well over 90% of my readers now have Facebook accounts and love the freebies. What used to be dozens of weekly “I hate Facebook!” e-mails are now down to one, if that. Many people created an account solely for freebie purposes and then, over time, began connecting with friends and using Facebook in the more traditional sense.

The signup forms tend to be shorter than typical freebies as well, which people appreciate. Plus, if a user ends up not enjoying a company’s frequent updates, all it takes is one click to unfan them, as opposed to the process of unsubscribing from a newsletter.

AF: What type of Facebook integration do you do with your site? If you don’t, why not, and are you planning on it?

RE: Thanks to the amount of freebies available, not only has my site’s fan page grown significantly (it currently stands at just over 18,400 fans), but the interaction between my readers and myself has skyrocketed. I would estimate that it rivals my site’s own comments section, in terms of sheer numbers and number of different people joining into the conversation. Many similar sites in my niche rely heavily on Twitter, but for me, Facebook has been a far superior method of staying in touch and growing my site. There are only so many people you can have a conversation with in 140 characters, but on Facebook, everybody can join in – and on my site, they are!

To extend on that, I’m planning on integrating Facebook Connect into my main site’s comments section by the end of the month.