12 Most Important Ways to Build Brand Advocates

12 Most Important Ways to Build Brand Advocates

Successful social media marketing is all about relationships, with the highest ROR (Return on Relationship) coming from relationships with your Brand Advocates — those people who are so delighted by your product/service/brand that they can’t wait to tell their friends and their whole social networks about their experience. Here are 12 ways to build your Brand Advocates to increase your ROR:

1. Focus on the relationship first

Consumers don’t fall in love with your brand and become Brand Advocates by being pushed into sales; they fall in love with your high quality product, excellent customer service, and a consistently enjoyable experience – all natural byproducts of strong relationships.

2. Aim for Ongoing Engagement

Your goal in building Brand Advocates needs to be ongoing engagement. One-time purchasers are just that – one-time purchasers, with little ongoing sales value. If, however, you create your marketing strategies with a focus on engaging over time in a variety of ways, you greatly increase your chances of turning your one-time purchasers into long-term consumers who recommend your products/services to others.
A one-time Tweet, a quick Facebook posting, or an email here and there is an announcement, not engagement. Real engagement takes time, attention, and overall effort, all of which pay off as your consumers become powerful Brand Advocates.

3. Put more energy and attention in your “give” column than in your “take” column

In a world of “take,” we must not underestimate the power of “give” – particularly in business. Your consumers will recognize in a heartbeat if you are simply trying to get something from them – and they will not stick around.
We need to stop thinking in terms of what we can get from our consumers, and start asking ourselves (and them!) what we can give to them as a thank you for connecting with us. Simple acts of giving attention, discounts, thank-you Tweets and re-Tweets, etc., are what build the foundation of relationships that create Brand Advocates.

4. Look in the mirror

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is no longer just a recommendation for life, it is a requirement of business in this social media age. As marketers, we want our brand to be heard, valued and paid attention to, so that is exactly what we need to first do for our Brand Advocates – give them our attention, and make sure they know we value them.

5. Make no assumptions

Although we can assume Brand Advocates want to be valued and heard, beyond that we must make NO assumptions as to:
Their needs, and/or how they want their needs to be addressed
Their technical skills/experience
Their preferences (re: products, services, online tools, marketing contact…)
Their habits, relationships, work, etc., etc.

ASK first, LISTEN next, ASK again (for clarification), then ACT and INTEGRATE your learning. That is the sequence that builds genuine relationships, and what will build cosumers’ trust and turn them into Advocates.

6. Ask your Brand Advocates what they want

With social media, we have unprecedented ways of requesting (notice I didn’t say “gathering”) information from our consumers. Ask them what they think of your product, and how it does or does not meet their needs. Ask them what’s missing, and what recommendations they have for product improvements.
In this world of information overload, asking = caring, so show them you care.

7. Listen to your consumers

After you ask (see #6), make sure you listen! What are your consumers saying … and just as importantly, what are they NOT saying? When you listen long enough, you begin to understand your consumers’ pain points, and you can engage them in solution-oriented conversation, which is one foundation to building Brand Advocacy.
True listening requires a willingness to place consumers’ opinions above the brand’s own (usually biased) view of itself.

8. Hear your consumers

Ask (#6), listen (#7), then hear. Hearing is what takes information to action, and action is what proves to consumers you really are listening to them. Consumers can quickly become Advocates when they see evidence of being heard (e.g.,product innovations based on their feedback).

9. Help your Advocates be heard

If you truly want to empower your Advocates, do what it takes to help them get heard. They are, after all, spreading the word about your products and services, so it only makes sense to make sure their voices are heard!
Advocates want – and deserve — to be recognized, so you should be their microphone: re-tweet their comments, post their insights on your websites, share their brightest ideas throughout your social networks and make sure to give them credit for all of their work.
As diligent as you are at making sure your Advocates hear you … that is how diligent you need to be about making sure your Advocates are heard by others.

10. BE Authentic, don’t just ACT it

This might seem obvious… but authenticity is on the verge of becoming just another buzz word in social media marketing. TRUE authenticity (not just using that word often in your tweets and posts) will set your brand apart in today’s highly competitive market. Brand Advocates are attracted to REAL, and can sniff out fake in a heartbeat.
The only way to be authentic is to BE authentic. For example, don’t white-wash your brand image by filtering out negative feedback, because nobody believes 100% positive claims on your website anyway. Make all feedback public, then address honestly the claims around the negative feedback, and give your Advocates the tools to tell their truth about your brand…because that is what consumers trust and what they trust, they will buy. REAL trumps PERFECT because REAL creates TRUST.

11. Use social media to serve, not just to sell

Ask your consumers, “How can we serve you?” and put actual customer service processes into place using social media for instant and ongoing engagement with your customers. Pay attention to them and address their needs early, often and publicly. Make sure your social team and customer service team are on the same page and communicate regularly and easily.
When you Integrate Customer Service with your social presence, you give your Brand Advocates the chance to have even more experiences to share with their own networks.

12. Innovate, don’t stagnate

The marketplace is lining up behind you waiting to catch your consumers’ attention the second they lose interest in your brand. You can’t afford to keep pushing out the same content day after day, so focus on the relationship with your Brand Advocates, and the conversations will naturally stay fresh, engaging, and interesting.
Don’t settle for mediocre. Take what you learn from your Brand Advocate relationships, and make informed product /service improvements. Strive to appeal to your consumers and watch your brand thrive as you innovate according to the roadmap your Brand Advocates can give you.

 

Photo credit some rights reserved by Celeste via creative commons.

Ted Rubin

http://TedRubin.com

Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist and coined the term RonR: Return on Relationship... a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand, like the one he built for e.l.f. Cosmetics as the Chief Marketing Officer between 2008 and 2010, and the one being built for the new updated OpenSky where Ted was Chief Social Marketing Officer until the end of April. Ted is now Chief Social Marketing Officer at Collective Bias and MARS Advertising Social Marketing Strategist.

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52 comments
davidwaiits
davidwaiits

I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I'm hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own website now ;) 10 best home based business ideas

TedRubin
TedRubin

@WillRussellMktg Thanks for the shout out Will!

TedRubin
TedRubin

@PaulBiedermann Thanks for the shout out Paul!

sanjayshetty
sanjayshetty

Shouldn't one be focusing on first defining what one's business objectives are? That's where one would begin right? All the rest follows after that. If one doesn't figure that out first, an advocate program could prove to be directionless.

Jtaylor
Jtaylor

Nice post. I enjoy reading the thoughts or kindred spirits. I have written a book (shameless plug) called Bigger than the Widget about the need for cmpnaies to go beyond their product to build a community of Fanatics. Advocacy is great, but Fanaticism can be very "sticky". Engagement is also important (#2 above)...I think it is part of a new way to look at your marketing mix. REAL Marketing (Reach, Engage, Activate, and Leverage) is more customer/advocate/fanatic centric than the traditional 4 P's and more reflective of today's reality. If interested...check out www.biggerthanthewidget.com. Would welcome feedback and arguments on my rants and opinions. Thx!

bethrago
bethrago

A great list I will be saving and probably printing out to refer to everyday! I like #10 about REALLY being authentic. There is so much talk out there about being true to yourself, but I am finding people are not completely comfortable being their "true self" out there for fear of criticism. Once you truly live what you speak, I think the reward will naturally come back to you! Some really great posts this week on the12most...

westfallonline
westfallonline

Ted, another inspiring post. I think one way to be authentic is: don't duck. You mention how companies face into difficult circumstances and handle negative feedback. Face reality, and your customers will go there with you. The old days of overselling something with a benefits-rich pitch are outdated, like a buggy whip or whale-bone skirt. Thanks for the game plan for branding, marketing and customer relationships. You continue to impress with your contribution to 12most.com.

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douglaserice
douglaserice

Ted, loved this post! Branding is more important in today's age than ever. I like your point about authenticity. Many businesses offer "testimonials" to push their brands but, oftentimes, they are looked at with skepticism as if they are late-night infomercials (sometimes they are). I like the idea of allowing negative comments and publicly reacting to them. Transparency is something people flock to because they feel like they can take ownership of the brand that is transparent. If you can see through the brand and nothing is brushed under the rug, you can be comfortable with claiming allegiance to it.

bobhoglund
bobhoglund

@angelamaiers @12most Good ideas! Deming said, "It is not enough to do your best. You must first know what to do and then do your best."

PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick moderator

Hello Ted-

Brilliant piece on building/creating Brand Advocates. So many of the Social Media "themes" such as authenticity, ask questions of your customers and listen, work towards many of the goals of companies that are using Social Media today. And so many great skills for life such as "do unto others" carries over into Social Media.

Great read! Thanks so much!

Positively,

Peggy

TedRubin
TedRubin

Thanks Jessica... you are right on! And it totally applies to both worlds.

Jessica Cohen
Jessica Cohen

Terrrific post, Ted. Authenticity is so important because these days our BS meters are better equipped than ever before. Being authentic is the strongest way to build relationships with advocates and consumers, whether it is B2B or B2C.

TedRubin
TedRubin

In my opinion, relationships are relationships, and they apply as much in the B2B space as in the B2C space... sometimes more so. B2B relationships very often, all else being equal, is what drives many transactions. The advocacy that comes from those relationships can, and will, build your business, foster loyalty and extend way beyond that one-to-one transaction.

TedRubin
TedRubin

@sanjayshetty Sanjay... thanks for the input. I believe the assumption here is that business objectives are already defined, at least initially, and even if/when they evolve advocacy is about what you offer as a product or service. I believe the above list applies at all times.

TedRubin
TedRubin

@bethrago Thanks Beth. Being Authentic is so very important. Connection is bred of affinity, authenticity, & passion. Build it w/those, maintain it with engagement and interaction.

mjtam
mjtam

@tedrubin It was an awesome post. Your expertise on these matter is so valuable to us. BTW, still need to send u that pic!

TedRubin
TedRubin

@westfallonline Thanks for the input Chris... really appreciate. Of course you don’t need to announce your errors or be proud of performance inconsistencies, but if consumers bring them up publicly, consider NOT filtering those conversations out of the media. Speak directly to any issues consumers have with your brand, and let your problem-solving conversations be public. These authentic conversations are the ones that build ongoing relationships – the ones that create Brand Advocates.

TedRubin
TedRubin

@douglaserice I encourage, and many times implore, brands to seek out critics. So much value in the learning and when you turn a critic into an supporter you have a tremendously valuable advocate... and, in most cases, it is so easy to do.

TedRubin
TedRubin

@PegFitzpatrick Social Media is all about BEING SOCIAL... simple you would think, but brands and marketers have not been trained to think that way, they are not measured and rewarded when it happens, and changing all this is the challenge.

sanjayshetty
sanjayshetty

I've developed a framework called R.I.D.E which essentially covers the steps you need consider, and the gotchas you need to watch out for while building a Brand advocate program, would be interesting to hear your thoughts on it, www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUtz3vf5cew

sanjayshetty
sanjayshetty

@TedRubin Thanks for the quick response Ted, in totall agreement with your points out here :-)

bethrago
bethrago

@TedRubin@PegFitzpatrick I meet with a group of women entrepreneurs once a month and have been talking a lot about the benefits of Twitter since I started tweeting a few months ago. What I am finding is being social is not natural for everyone. Finding a genuine voice is hard enough for some people face-to-face, let alone finding one in the Social Media scene. I find it comes naturally to me, but what advice can you give people who struggle with the actual conversation?

Yes, I have read all the "Ways to effectively communicate and make an impact with Social Media", but I think those lists are really surface level and need to dig a little deeper to get to the core of the individual/business owner who struggles with being social.

What do you guys think?

bethrago
bethrago

I have also only had one cup of coffee this morning, so I may be sorting through this thought on my own once cup #2 kicks in! ;)

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