Before social media took off, brand advocates could only share their opinions about products or companies through offline word of mouth. The reach that each customer had was limited to the people physically around them, and those they communicated with on the phone. Brand advocacy was mostly one-to-one affair, so any individual consumer’s power to influence the opinions of a market was very limited (something that big companies with big advertising budgets loved – they could always shout louder than a handful of disgruntled customers).
Now, brand advocates communicate their thoughts about the brands they buy through social media by liking, tweeting, blogging and sharing with greatly extended networks – the people who are both physically AND digitally around them. In our socially connected world, the reach of each customer has been amplified by an order of magnitude. The notion that brands can control their brand image by throwing a massive advertising budget at it doesn’t fit in with the new social media age. Today, your brand image is whatever your customers say it is.
For marketing departments this means greater opportunities but also greater risks. The amplified reach of happy customers means more positive recommendations and more referred business. The amplified reach of unhappy customers means more negative recommendations – and more doubts being taken on board by ready-to-buy prospects. Never before has it been more important to manage this balance and solve customer problems quickly to drive them from one camp (detractors) into the other (promoters). Knowing how happy your customers are has become critical to survival. If they are satisfied, they can be recruited into your brand advocate marketing force. If they are displeased, you need to know why – and fix the problem fast (or risk losing the customer and creating a vocal detractor that can damage your business reputation).
Your brand advocates will pro-actively make recommendations without being prompted by you, but it also possible to direct brand advocate activity (through gamified engagement) to support your own specific social media marketing campaigns – through a brand advocacy program, supported by a brand advocacy platform. Companies can get ahead of the competition by encouraging their brand advocates to post and promote their brand messaging to their own social media networks.
So how can you harness brand advocates to help you deliver on your social media marketing objectives?
- “Follow us”: By increasing the number of followers you have, you extend your company’s potential social reach. You can’t broadcast directly into your customer’s networks (they are still the gatekeepers), but getting your content and offers in front of your customers on a regular basis is step one. Prospects looking at your company’s social profiles will also naturally associate number of followers with status as a trusted thought leadership in your sector, and grant you an authority position of knowledge if you have a high number of followers.
- “Share this”: When your customers share your content and offers, they extend the reach of your campaign from your company’s network into theirs – increasing reach exponentially with each. As already mentioned, your customers are the gatekeepers to their own social networks – so quality of content is the key. When a customer shares an offer or a content piece, they are effectively giving it their own stamp of approval – and to an extent, their own reputation is at stake here, so they’ll only share content that reflects the level of quality that they want to be associated with. The result of a share is an increase in the perceived value of your content amongst the customer’s network, as it has been filtered and validated by them.
- Advocate Recruitment: By closely monitoring social media sites you can also identify new advocates. By listening to who is mentioning you, sharing your links and so on, you can easily recognise who should be participating in your advocate program. You can also use these to promote the overall program, and recognise the advocates who are already active participants. You don’t need sophisticated sentiment analysis tools to get started with social media monitoring. In most cases, as simple search will uncover where people are talking about you.
- Social Media Crisis: When a detractor, an unhappy customer, has a poor experience with your brand and is motivated to lash-out online, having an army of brand advocates at the ready mean you can respond quickly. By focusing positive reviews in the same place, you can effectively drown out the negative. However, in the world of social media, speed is of the essence; minutes make the difference. Responding to negative reviews a week later can actually do more damage, so you need a mechanism for directing your brand advocates in the right place at the right time.
- Content: If social media is the engine, content is the fuel. But how do you generate enough content to maintain a strong presence on so many different social networks (and in so many different formats)? Simple: get your customers involved. This is where we find the overlap between Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing, which is beyond the scope of this article. The trick is to find your customers’ passion and harness that energy, and it is important to remember that different customers have presence on different social networks. However, the key benefit here is that customer-generated content is more authentic (and thus powerful) than anything coming out of your marketing department, so it is more likely to be read and shared.
How CustomerAdvocacy.com can help you with social media marketing campaigns
The CustomerAdvocacy.com platform makes it easy for marketing staff to guide social media interaction between advocates and their social networks. The platform comes with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn integration, so they can start sharing content on their profiles straight away. Successful social media amplification happens on the back of the success and merit of your product or service. However, to get the most out of your customers on social media sites, you need an efficient community management tool that makes the process easy. Take a demo to see how CustomerAdvocacy.com can harness this and strengthen your social media marketing campaign. Or contact us to speak to an Advocate Marketing Coach today.