Have you digitally embraced your brand advocates lately? In 2014, using search and social to energize (or destroy) your brand advocates can be rewarding (and harmful) in the form of positive (or negative) publicity.
It might be surprising to know a company’s loyal customers are actually not its most valuable customers, according to a study published in Harvard Business Review. A company’s most valuable customers are actually the ones who are the best buyers and make the most recommendations and referrals.
the romance of brand advocates
62% of word of mouth is positive (Keller Fay Group)
75% of consumers recommend companies they trust to a friend or colleague (Source: Edelman)
Brand advocates are at least 5x more valuable than average customers because they spend more and recommend more (Source: Zuberance)
Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate (source: Deloitte)
Social media is a brand advocate energizer
When brand advocates make recommendations on social media, power is amplified for the good or bad; especially since:
46% of social media users say the would talk about a brand or product on Facebook
For every five tweets, one is brand related
36% of YouTube users said learning about a brand on a social media network would result in them visiting an ecommerce site.
Spinning success and avoiding failure
So what’s the secret love potion in reaching and keeping the brand advocates, the ones who are the most loyal and refer the most business?
Be a jerk
Delete and cover up
Walls of red tape
Be nice or be a jerk?
Best practice brands such as Zappos are poster child examples of companies that prove delivering happiness and niceness attract brand advocates like magnets and attribute to long term success and profits. Being a jerk, like the recent Samsung example when a customer requested a replacement phone because his phone caught on fire resulted in a public relations disaster when the company asked for proof that the phone caught on fire. The customer created a video and posted it on YouTube. About one million views later, that’s a much more expensive and damaging piece of negative publicity than if Samsung would have just replaced the phone and be done with it.
Engage or disconnect
The old fashioned customer service departments that look like operator call centers are over. Today’s customers are social and mobile; they seek and expect immediate gratification via a brand’s social media channels. Make sure customer service is part of the social media communications plan to engage in customer service related questions and comment.
Be Honest or Just Press Delete?
When mistakes happen; owning up to them might be difficult in the short term, but will prevent escalating and snowball effects of negative publicity. Some of the biggest brand advocates are created when mistakes happen and brands are able to make lemonade out of lemons. Deleting negative comments in social media versus responding and resolving can lead to a public display of social media bloodshed and outrage.
Transparency or Walls of Red Tape
Giving your customers red carpet access or allowing the media to have inside access builds trust and loyalty, something that can’t be bought in advertising and marketing. Examples of thought leader transparency could be a CEO or business owner who is personally running his own Twitter account or one that may personally respond via email to a customer success story or customer issue.
Authenticity or Fake Reviews
A brand boasting a perfect score of all 5 star online reviews with robotic language are a sure sign of a fake. The brands with a mix of reviews that show brand responses and interactions will win the war in attracting customers and building trust.
Easy or Challenging
Making a process as easy as possible for a prospect looking for an answer, customer having a question, blogger researching a story or a traditional journalist identifying an expert source can make a difference in winning over a new brand advocate. Company online newsrooms with images, logos, factsheets, updated product and services news as well as industry reports will make a journalist’s life easier and can also provide customers with current news. Make information easy to find and access and create a culture that encourages an easy brand experience.
Personalized versus Automated
Social messaging that is obviously automated and talks about the brand will lose. Keeping content that is more about the customer and personalized is more likely to result in brand relationship building and the start of building an army brand advocates.
Timely or No Comment
Being present and available in a time of crisis or success is critical to brand relationships. A recent example of social media sharing company Buffer getting hacked. With more than 1 million users at risk, Buffer’s entire team including its founders came to the frontlines during the crisis and shared in the outreach. The result was a short term negative outpour of social media buzz that in the end turned into a case study example of how to swiftly handle a crisis in the most transparent and authentic way possible, keeping customers informed in real time via social.
Optimized versus Sloppy SEO Writing
Applying SEO best practices helps make your excellent content worthy of ranking so your potential brand advocates can find you through a search engine according to Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals by Bruce Clay and Murray Newlands. But wait…you don’t have to learn HTML to write optimized content. The days of SEO experimentation are over, today it’s a standard practice and mandatory. There is no excuse for sloppy or even worse – no SEO writing as part of a brand’s content.
Mobile-friendly or Not Listed
Social sharing on mobile occurs twice as often as shares on desktop, and redemption rates on mobile coupons are 10 times higher than traditional promotions. If your website is not mobile-friendly as you read this article, it might as well be “not listed”. If you lose a potential brand advocate because of a poor mobile experience, chances are they are never coming back. The reality is your competition will give them a better mobile experience than no experience.
“The analogy that social evangelists will become tomorrow’s news anchor stars is not far-fetched. As information consumption shifts to devices, social evangelists will increasingly become the source for news and opinion.” – Mark Fidelman wrote in a Forbes article.
In 2014 the smart brands, the trail blazers, will hone in on the natural publicity power of brand advocates and the reality that the next new hire might very well be the Social Brand Evangelist, on staff in charge of energizing and empowering the brand advocates with loyalty and rewards.