Whenever I write a book or speak about branding, I emphasize the importance of building a band of brand advocates. These are your vocal brand loyalists. They want to talk about your brand and can give you more word-of-mouth marketing than your budget could ever buy. Brand advocates can come from a variety of audiences—your employees, your customers, industry experts, and any other stakeholder you can think of. However, not all brand loyalists are equal when it comes to brand advocacy. That’s where tapping into your band of brand advocates gets more challenging.
Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to find your brand advocates. Your first step should always be to find out where your target audience (in this case, your brand advocates) already spend time online. Join the conversation, but don’t self-promote. Brand advocacy is tied closely to the emotional connection that consumers feel with brands they love. Your job is to build a relationship that fosters the emotional connection to your brand. In time, you can share marketing messages (minimally) and even ask your brand advocates to help you spread those messages. However, you need to tread carefully so you don’t damage the relationship. Always make sure your audience feels valued rather than like a promotional conduit.
Craig Rosenberg of TOPO shared some more great secrets for tapping into your brand advocates with Derek Singleton of The B2B Marketing Mentor that should help you find the right people and boost participation. First, he identifies three types of people who should be at the top of your search list: socially active customers, peer problem solvers, and your best customers (the customers whose names you give to prospective customers who ask for references). To find them, monitor your social media communities and conversations as well as online brand mentions. You can also conduct online surveys to track customer satisfaction and identify particularly happy customers.
To encourage participation, Rosenberg suggests that you start with a small group of 25 to 50 advocates and limit how often you ask them to promote or share something for you. You should also diversify what you ask them to do. Make it easy and enjoyable for them to participate so it becomes a habit for them.
Finally, Rosenberg reminds marketers that it is absolutely essential to recognize your advocates. His company’s research data suggests that monetary rewards are not effective because they attract people who are looking for a deal rather than true brand advocates. Instead, he suggests that you reward your advocates with personal thank you notes, exclusive access or sneak peaks at products and services, badges or awards that recognize advocates as experts in their fields, or special invitations to meet with key company representatives, such as your CEO.
Your brand advocates are out there. They’re already talking about your brand and with a bit of encouragement and recognition, they’d be happy to talk about it even more. You just have to find them and foster the relationship. Thanks to the social web, it’s a task that has never been easier. What are you waiting for?
Image: Sigurd Decroos
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