by Ted Rubin

Creating brand advocates is a big part of a brand’s social media efforts. Everybody wants large numbers of raving fans singing their praises on social channels, but few are willing to get out of their own way and do the real work that true advocacy requires — relationship building. Time and time again companies build elaborate social profiles and advertise to get more fans, and then wonder why no one spreads the word about them, much less buys from them.

So what does it take to turn followers of your brand into advocates? There is no magic formula or way to totally automate this. It’s personal and it takes people to make it happen.

First, you need to know why your audience would be compelled to plead your cause, stand up for you, and share their experiences. To figure this out, turn it around and ask yourself the same question about brands you like; the ones you tell your friends about. What turned the tide for you? Most likely, it was a good product, and they treated you well and were responsive to your needs. Of course, creating this connection often begins online now.

I’ve said before that most marketers are focused on trying to assign a dollar value to each Facebook fan or Twitter follower instead of paying attention to the fact that, without the engagement and interaction that takes place in these mediums, the value of each user is greatly diminished. In my opinion there’s way too much emphasis on measuring ROI in social. People will buy more often from people and brands they like. This is self-evident and simply common sense.

Building advocacy is really all about nurturing your customers’ relationships and experiences. It’s up to you to provide something more compelling than a pretty Facebook page or Twitter profile. When customers seek you out via social, they’re looking for an opportunity to build an emotional connection. So give it to them.

What does that mean? It means responding promptly to messages, making an effort to reach out and thank individuals for sharing your content, being human, and above all, not taking your audience for granted. After all, true advocacy isn’t a numbers game. It’s the natural byproduct of developing good relationships, providing great consistent service, and delivering on your brand promise. Your existing or future customers won’t become brand advocates by simply being your customers. They need to have an experience that stands out. So don’t be routine in your interactions. Be remarkable! Make it a part of your culture and brand DNA. That happens on an individual basis, and it’s different for everyone. You can’t mass-produce it.

Once you have developed brand advocates, make certain they are heard. Advocates want, and deserve, to be recognized so be their microphone by re-tweeting their comments, posting their insights on your website, sharing their brightest ideas through your networks, and making sure to give them credit for all that they do.

Advocates must be placed in a higher position than the one they currently hold in our companies. Treat advocates like prized members of your team. Give them, and the role they play, a “promotion” within your marketing team so your team gets the incredible value they add. More than an actual position promotion, this is a paradigm shift. Advocates should be viewed internally as co-leads, with their opinions and insights informing and even directing innovation for your brand.

This give-give cycle is the new marketing. It’s important to allocate resources to building relationships with the people who believe in a brand and want to share it with their networks. Then take that from give-give and evolve it to learn-learn. That makes it sustainable.

Simply honor your customer relationships, because that’s where it all starts. Build it into your culture and the DNA of your brand. Recognize the value of relationships and invest in them because true advocacy cannot be developed without them.



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