How to Build a Base of Powerful Brand Evangelists
By Denae DiVincenzo
In the game of social media reach, you need to have as many players on your team as possible. The algorithm changes to Facebook and Instagram favor posts by pages or accounts that have consistent levels of engagement, and the reward is wider distribution. Although this may seem contrary (how can you get the numbers of likes and double-taps needed to boost your post organically in order to reach a larger audience if the platform puts your post in front of a fraction of your audience at a time?) and in many ways is encouraging businesses to pay to play, there are ways to get organic reach without running an ad campaign.
It comes down to your most loyal fans.
What makes someone a brand evangelist? They are the Facebook fans or customers on Twitter or even your own employees who are not only interested in the content that you are sharing with them, but are so excited about what you’re doing that they share your content with their own friends and family. True brand evangelism is worth more than any successful ad campaign and it cannot be bought. Brand evangelists must be earned. To convert customers into brand evangelists, keep in mind these six elements and you’ll be well on your way.
1. Know Your Audience (and What Matters to Them)
Future brand evangelists must first be wowed, and to do that you need to find their sweet spot. Create buyer personas and get to know your target audience so that you can be prepared to delight them with content they will find meaningful. Make a list of what your ideal customer looks like, from their basic demographics such as location and profession to what their concerns and behaviors are. While creating the persona, it could be beneficial even at this early stage to consider the ways that this ideal customer would promote your brand, such as:
- How active are they on social media?
- What other brands do they like?
- What are their passions and interests?
- How many social media followers do they have?
When creating a buyer persona keep in mind that it is a fictional generalization. Don't stress about specifics, but instead consider trends and commonalities.
2. Build Brand Loyalty Internally First
If your own employees don’t even know you have a Facebook page, you are doing it wrong. However, awareness of your social media presence is just the first step. Ideally, your employees care about the company and are immersed in its culture and are loyal to its mission. This is not to say that you provide them with limitless perks, but rather that your company has not only established its culture but is also transparent about it and you have built up a team that is well-suited to that culture. At NeigerDesign, for example, we value the arts, individual expression, and community engagement. We communicate this to potential employees and are actively furthering this culture through our arts collective Studio//Shift as well as through the local events we attend and several engaging company traditions that we all participate in every year. When our employees spend the day at a strategic planning session that also includes glassblowing, getting a special tour of the 606, or behind the scenes tours of Chicago’s museums, they want to tell everyone they know about the cool things they are doing at NeigerDesign. Give your employees something great to talk about.
3. Keep Your Customers Happy
It’s all well and good to get new customers, but only happy customers will become brand evangelists. Check in with your customers to ensure that there is an open line of communication so that any potential problems can be addressed before there is an opportunity for them to feel dissatisfied. Also, don’t overlook the upsell (or the cross-sell, for that matter). Brand evangelists are much more likely to be your repeat or retained customers versus an especially pleased first-time customer. In addition to making sure that they are happy with your product or service, consider what else you can offer. At this point you should have a good grasp on what their needs are, so be vigilant for opportunities to fulfill them. And if you aren’t sure whether or not your customer is happy, just ask them. What is there to lose? If they aren’t then this is your opportunity for you to improve (with direct feedback), and if they are then the door has been opened for you to remind them that you care, or even to initiate a request that they share how happy they are with a favorable review or a referral.
4. Be Prepared to Think Bigger
Brand evangelists don’t have to be limited to your most loyal fans and your paid employees, either. An especially powerful evangelist could be an entire company whose mission and culture meshes well with yours. Seeking a partner company or organization for a campaign could be the key to reaching a whole new audience. Naturally both your and your collaborator will be highly motivated to have a successful campaign and will both be promoting it to your own network, providing you with access to a captive audience that would have taken much longer to earn on your own.
5. If You Post It, They Will Come
It should go without saying, but if you aren’t posting regularly on social media, you won’t gain new followers. Think about your own personal experience on social media—you are going to feel the most compelled to follow the brand that is posting a wealth of content that appeals to you. If that brand isn’t posting, then what’s the point of following them? There’s no reason your customers should feel any differently. Create and distribute the kind of content they want to consume, but also do it consistently. It’s is no easy task, but this is what creates the distinction between mediocre brands without customer engagement and stellar brands with brand evangelists. To get started with a more consistent schedule, create a content calendar, even if it’s just a series of sticky notes on a wall calendar, to plan out your next batch of posts and to remind you to stay on top of your accounts.
6. Social Media is Not a One Way Street
Don’t forget that first key word in social media—the platforms you’ve joined and started posting to are meant to be a social community. Let your Facebook Page or Twitter be a place for conversation, not just a billboard. Respond to your customers on social media and interact with other accounts; always be available to answer questions and provide helpful and interesting information. However, you must first and foremost be genuine. Coming across as authentic online may call for a revision to your brand voice for social media—you don’t want to appear out of character as a company but you also want to inject an impression of being approachable and conversational in your social network. Find your happy medium and keep the conversation going.