It’s with good reason that 93 percent of marketers use social media for business -- with more than 1.15 billion registered Facebook users and more than 550 million registered Twitter users (and many, many more users across other networks), it just makes sense to reach people through the medium. However, just because marketers are on social media doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using it correctly.
The best brands craft social strategies to build powerful customer relationships. Why? Because well-crafted and well-implemented social strategies keep brands relevant, generate social chatter and create gold for marketers: strong brand advocates.
Oftentimes however, brands fall into the trap of pushing content instead of pulling people to the conversation. It’s a costly error: In doing so, brands miss out on real-time conversation and disengage their audiences in the process. But perhaps worst of all, they miss out on creating and engaging those coveted brand advocates -- loyal fans who speak highly of the brand and are eager to support, promote and defend it on a long-term basis.
So how should brands keep brand advocates at the forefront of their social strategies? We’ll get to that. Before anything else, a distinction should be made clear: brand advocates differ from influencers.
Influencers are typically pundits, professional bloggers or celebrities. They’re defined by the size of their audience and are typically motivated by growing their audience.
On the other hand, brand advocates are typically highly-satisfied customers. They’re defined by how likely they are to recommend the brand and are motivated by helping friends in their networks find a “good deal” or the “best fit.”
Here’s the catch: Only 18 percent of people trust influencers, whereas 92 percent of people trust brand advocates. With that, here’s a simple, four-step process to guide your crafting of a stellar social strategy to create powerful brand advocates. Happy influencing.
1. Identify potential advocates
Segment your audiences to identify regular fans from super fans, and then keep track of them. How? Create private lists on Twitter, keep a living list of your 100 greatest brand advocates and treat them like you do your friends on your personal social media networks -- know what they’re up to and use that knowledge to create meaningful conversation.
2. Converse with potential advocates
People rarely become brand advocates unless they’ve had -- and continue to have -- positive interactions with brands through social media or other digital mediums. After all, the foundation of any lasting relationship is conversation.
So converse with your audience: Respond to their questions and comments. Make every interaction valuable, and be authentic to the brand when speaking for the brand -- you’re not a robot, so sound like a human being.
3. Convert potential advocates
Take conversation with your audience a step further and thank them for sticking around. Do simple things, like retweet them, like their photos and comments and voice your appreciation for their support. Tell them you love them.
More than anything however, don’t use a system. If you like every single photo and every single comment, the brand’s “political capital” is lessened in a way. Be strategic, be spontaneous and be genuine.
4. Leverage advocate-generated content
One of the easiest -- and most effective -- ways to create brand advocates is to use their content while giving them a shoutout. Social media land is narcissistic by nature -- play into that by generating exposure for your audience. It’s a win-win. You use their content and make them feel special, and it leads back to your product or service.
5. Finally, keep track of and optimize your results
We live in the age of information, which allows us the immense opportunity to track our results and optimize accordingly. If your content isn’t generating conversation, change it.
The brand’s voice is important, but that doesn’t mean it should remain static. Use feedback from your advocates to guide your social strategy, and operate in real-time at least 30 to 40 percent of the time. Remember, converting and retaining advocates is about giving them a reason to stay. Focus on growing your relationship with advocates and building trust, and soon you’ll have an army of brand advocates to spread your message. Use responsibly.