Successful social media marketing is all about relationships, with the highest ROR (Return on Relationship) coming from relationships with your Brand Advocatesthose 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.

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