Category: Social Media
Do You Know the Power of FREE?

Let’s talk about the power of free stuff. Why does the word FREE have such an emotional pull? What do brands get in return when they give something for free? More importantly, how can you use the power of free to your advantage?

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational (2008), showed that nothing is more motivating than getting something for free.  

He set up a table with two bowls: a bowl of Lindt Truffles that he sold for 15 cents and another bowl of Hershey’s Kisses for 1 cent. At the end of the experiment, he found that 73% of the students chose Lindt over Hershey’s. It seemed like students preferred Lindt over Hershey’s even if the cost was 15X higher.

Next, he set up two bowls again, this time selling Lindt Truffles for 14 cents while the Hershey’s Kisses were free. Guess what? 69% of the students chose Hershey’s this time.

This is the power of free or the zero-price effect, and it threatens to turn traditional cost-benefit models on their heads. These models don’t account for the fact that getting something for free has a psychological effect that trumps conventional economic theory.  

Enter behavioral economics: the umbrella term under which the power of free falls. This covers the study of economic decision-making through emotional, cognitive, psychological, social, and cultural factors.  

Why is FREE so powerful?

It’s not just a price indicator but an emotional trigger.

We tend to make decisions based on how they make us feel. Free things make us happy, and we’ll make decisions that make us happy. It sounds simple, but a decision made in the name of a free thing is often irrational.  

That’s largely due to perceived value. We place an unreasonably high value on free things merely because they’re FREE. It’s an option with no downside. There’s no risk involved. We have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.  

We’ve all taken promotional shirts, pens, stickers, koozies, frisbees, bottle openers, keychains, and water bottles from companies we don’t even care about. Do we need them? No. But we felt a pull toward them – saying no didn’t feel like an option.

Surprise! It’s because they were free.  

Let’s look at an even stronger pull: free food. It’s nearly impossible to turn down free food. It doesn’t even matter if we’ve just eaten, are saving our appetite for something later, or aren’t that crazy about the food being offered. If it’s free and right in front of us, we’re likely to take it.

Most of us don’t consider time or even extra money to be lost when exchanging them for a free item or service.  

That’s why we’ll happily wait in a line for multiple hours if Starbucks is offering a free drink when, instead, we could stop by the next day, pay less than $10 for the same drink and be on our way in a matter of seconds.  

Another example is paying for additional products that we don’t need to receive free shipping. We could run out of shampoo and go to Ulta’s website to buy a new bottle but end up buying 4 because we didn’t want to pay for shipping. The shipping cost would be much less than those extra three bottles of shampoo, but we want it to be free.  

Paying for shipping feels like a waste, but paying for more products to get free shipping feels like a deal. It makes us feel like we’ve worked the system and are coming out on top.

While it may seem beneficial for companies to have free shipping minimums so that we’ll buy more to reach it, studies have shown that we’ll buy more things more often if free shipping is a constant offer.

When Amazon first started offering free shipping, they implemented it everywhere except for France but still lowered France’s shipping cost to 20 cents. Sales across the globe increased dramatically, but the sales in France stayed the same. After a while, they announced free shipping in France as well. Their sales there quickly climbed to match those of the rest of the world.  

Twenty-cent shipping wasn’t even close enough to free to be worth it to consumers.   

Lots of companies have figured out how to use the power of free to their advantage.

Various restaurants and retailers will send out freebies to people who have downloaded and made an account on their app.

Their FREE app.

They figure that you’ll come in to get your freebie and end up buying more while you’re at it. They got you into their store when you weren’t necessarily planning on it and made a sale, proving that freebie more than worth it to them.

Many restaurants also utilize a buy-one-get-one-free strategy to get us to come in and spend money. You’re excited to go in and share a discounted meal with a friend, riding the high of the free offer. The benefit for the restaurant is that you’re likely to buy more than what the coupon is for, such as drinks, appetizers, desserts, etc.  

A slightly different approach is giving away something for free that will, in turn, create a demand for something costly. Cell phone companies do this by bringing in customers with a free phone offer and then charging them for the necessary plan.  

The original user of this tactic was the founder of Gillette Razors and Blades. He was having trouble selling his disposable razor blades, so he started giving away the razor for free in various marketing partnerships with other brands. This created the demand for disposable razor blades and is what ultimately got his sales off the ground.

Increasing digital capabilities has had a significant impact on the ability to distribute free things.

Distributing free things online has little to no cost and gives businesses the freedom to reach people they would otherwise be struggling to connect with. 

This is one of the best ways for small businesses to utilize the power of free. 

Whether it’s a webinar, podcast, workshop, newsletter, or blog, small businesses can give away free things online that will gain them mass exposure at little to no cost while establishing themselves as an expert in their field.  

Especially this past year, as even more aspects of running a business have moved online, small businesses are offering free consultations. If they invest a small bit of time into sharing their expertise with a potential customer, that customer is likely to come back to them when they need a paid service.  

The key to gaining a return on these types of freebies is to provide value. 

While the FREE label will pique interest, small businesses aren’t going to gain loyal followers unless they provide a reason for them to stay.  

First, understand your ideal target audience.  

Then put yourself in their shoes and identify the type of content they would want or be interested in.  

What are their frustrations? What do they face day-to-day? Moreover, what are their aspirations?

Create your freebie around what would be useful to them and deliver a value-packed gift they can’t walk away from. Make it so beneficial to them that you and your business will occupy a part of their memory from that point on. 

Small businesses also create positivity in these difficult times by offering their free thing as a celebration.

What do people want on National Margarita Day? A free margarita! Perhaps with the purchase of an entrée.  

National Pi Day brings a flock of hungry shoppers to the internet, hoping to find deals on pizza and bakery pies. This is an excellent opportunity for a buy-one-get-one-free deal to increase business at your restaurant.

Free birthday items are another celebratory way to make someone feel special and get them into your shop.

Will some of us only pick up our free birthday treat? Yes. Will a good number of us buy other things while we’re there? Definitely.

Adding on a free item to something that has already been purchased is also an effective way to gain returning customers.

Going back to the fact that free things make us happy, you have associated yourself with that happiness. You gave us a gift that we didn’t ask for, and you made us happy.  

The other side to that strategy is that your freebie may be something that we’ve never heard of or used before. You’ve just opened our minds to a new product, increasing the chances that we’ll come back to make a purchase.  

The power of free isn’t something that should be overlooked.

There’s more than enough proof that this psychological wonder affects people everywhere.

However, it’s essential to take away that this marketing strategy shouldn’t be used to trick people into spending exorbitant amounts of money.  

Doing good business is about harnessing deep, genuine connections with people, and sneaky gimmicks will not get you there.

The best way to use this gold nugget of human behavior is to understand it, embrace it, and use it in the most ethical way possible.  

How about you? How are you harnessing the power of free? Got a question? Don’t forget to COMMENT below and SHARE your thoughts.

Sources:

https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/resources/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/zero-price-effect/

https://avgjoefinance.com/power-of-free/

https://www.forentrepreneurs.com/power-of-free/

https://thedecisionlab.com/insights/business/impact-free-consumer-decision-making/

https://www.wired.com/2008/02/ff-free/


What Do You Know About Social Proof?

Let’s talk about the power of social proof: why it’s important, how businesses are using it, and how you can start using it to your advantage too.

Business psychology professor Robert Cialdini coined the term “social proof” in his book Influence (1984). The concept of social proof is simple: When we don’t have enough information about something, we base our decisions on how others decide and act.

We follow the masses and feel most comfortable conforming to a group decision.

Psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a conformity experiment in 1951. Eight male college students (participants) were put in a group with two other people (influencers) who were secretly in on the experiment. Each group was shown an image of a line and then another image with three different lines. They were asked to choose which of those three lines matched the first line. The influencers always gave their answers before the participant. In 12 of the 18 trials, the influencers gave wrong answers, even though the correct answer was obvious. On the other hand, 75% of the participants gave the wrong answer as well. In the other six trials where the influencers gave the correct answer, the participant gave the wrong answer less than 1% of the time.

Asch determined that these participants followed the consensus because they wanted to fit in with the group. Some even believed that the group was better informed than they were.

Why is it essential for businesses to pay attention to the power of social proof?

Think about how we decide on which smartphone to buy. Most of us will do the research. Some will take a careful look at the specs. But not everyone will have the tech know-how to understand everything. So, we look to other people to fill in the gaps for us, such as family and friends.

If it’s a new product, you’ll probably join a forum or tech group to ask around, see what people know about it. You’ll also probably scour YouTube for review videos from the tech experts—AKA tech influencers. If they say that it’s a good product, you’ll be more likely to buy it when you get the chance.

This is why many brands work with influencers, who create content and review products. In doing so, they prime the mass market and influence them to buy the product when it gets released.

We tend to trust well-known people who have earned our confidence more than actual brands.

Let’s talk examples.

Ever wonder why restaurants have such small waiting areas inside the building? They want you to have to wait outside where people will see you. If you drive by a restaurant that has a large group of people waiting in front of it, you’re going to take a mental note that this restaurant must be fantastic. So, you’re more likely to come back to it. It’s hard to be impressed by an empty restaurant because our instinct is to assume that it must not be any good if nobody is there.

Another aspect of social proof is our want to be a part of a community. Canva plays on this with their sign-up landing page. It says, “Join over 10 million people designing on Canva.” This call to action is especially effective because it’s framed as an invitation rather than a statement. Sure, having 10 million customers is notable. However, people will want to sign up because they can join that large number of users and become part of their community.

Subaru has included a “Reviews and Awards” page on their website that shows potential buyers they’ve gone above and beyond the industry standard and have been recognized by institutions that matter. They also have a “Dear Subaru: Owner Stories” page set up like a collage. This personal touch lets customers see real people who have had wonderful experiences with Subaru.

There are stores and country clubs that use the idea of exclusivity as social proof. Whether they need a waitlist or not, they’ll use one to give the impression that their establishment is so popular and extraordinary that they must limit access.

Social proof is one of the most accessible marketing tools for small businesses.

You can utilize customer reviews in nearly every type of marketing collateral. Social media posts, blogs, sales pages, product descriptions, landing pages, and more can all immensely benefit from the addition of positive customer reviews.

People tend to check 2-3 review sites, like Yelp and Google, before deciding about a brand, so it’s best practice to get positive reviews on as many different sites as possible.

What’s even more powerful than reviews? Testimonials. These show the big picture, a whole experience rather than simply stating that a product worked. The key to great testimonials is value. The best ones address common objections and overcome them, giving viewers confidence in the product or service.

We trust authentic, peer recommendations far more than paid advertisements, so don’t be afraid to reach out to past customers for testimonials. You can create a short survey for them to take, ensuring that you get the exact information you need.

If you want to work with an influencer or a celebrity to promote your brand, finding the right match is crucial. The person you team up with will only help your conversions if your audience knows them, likes them, and trusts them. You’ll be out a lot of time and money if you choose the wrong fit.

Social media is ground zero for social proof. If you see a customer tagging you on Facebook or Instagram, acknowledge the post and share it on your feed or stories. Encourage your customers to tag you on their social media posts and reward them with engagement.

Remember that people are more likely to buy or do something when they know that other people are doing it, too.

How about you? How are you using social proof in your business? Got a question? Don’t forget to COMMENT below and SHARE your thoughts.

Sources:

https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-proof/

https://optinmonster.com/11-ways-to-use-social-proof-to-increase-your-conversions/

https://www.subaru.com/index.html