Here’s a scenario we've all seen a dozen times: a company Twitter page that consists of a series of totally unrelated tweets. No customer engagement, nothing to retweet or favourite, just boring, insipid questions or comments. “What’s your favourite way to eat Bongo’s Jelly Beans” “Why not start your day with some Bongo Jelly Beans?!?!?!”. Etc, etc. I don’t blame the employee for this. They’re undoubtedly swamped with other work to do and barely have the time to log in to Twitter, let alone to dedicate to crafting the perfect tweet every time. “Something about… eating Bongo Jelly Beans on a train. Bingo!”, followed by immediately crossing off Daily Social Media Marketing off their daily checklist.
The problem is, of course, that it doesn’t work. Building a brand takes a long time, and a lot of repetition. Marketers never feel like they have enough time or money to create the awareness that they need to succeed. That awareness certainly isn't going to manifest as the result of a perfunctory daily tweet. So what’s to be done? The answer is to spend less time making Twitter and Facebook posts that no one reads, and more time building a relationship with your customers.
Word of Mouth is the Oldest Trick That Everyone Forgot
In the age of the internet, marketers are increasingly likely to forget the value of the oldest form of marketing in the book: word of mouth. A Nielsen survey revealed that 92% of consumers will believe recommendations from friends and family over any and all forms of advertising. The same is true for business-to-business transactions. Customers are increasingly suspicious of advertisements. It doesn’t matter what you tell them about your product, because they've already been trained not to trust you. They want a recommendation from their friends and family, and failing that from sources that perceive as not having a strong bias.
Brand advocates are fantastic marketing resources. Once created, they don’t require further resources, don’t monopolise the time of your staff and, crucially, are trusted far more than any of your other marketing materials are. Compared to other social media spending, nurturing brand advocates has by far the biggest return for your marketing buck
How Brand Advocates Are Created
The tricky thing, of course, is actually creating this advocacy in the first place. If you expect your customers to go to bat for you, you need to offer them more than other businesses. Facebook and Twitter posts aren't going to impress any customers, let alone create the strong reactions that you need to convince them to go above and beyond on your behalf. First and foremost will always be having a great product, but there are other key things to have in place:
Your customers need to have a place to interact with each other, to strengthen their bonds within the community and with your brand. They need to feel that your brand is going above and beyond to give them a place to talk about your products. If users feel a personal connection with your brand, they’re more likely to feel the need to defend it and advocate for it. A branded, customer-focused community in your control lets you provide this kind of environment
Your support structure needs to be top-notch. Even the best products will require support at some point. If a customer is able to find quick, simple answers to product issues, they’re likely to come away from the experience impressed with your customer service rather than annoyed at the problem. The best way of doing this is by providing a living knowledge base in your community, allowing your existing brand advocates a place to help others with their issues. These answers are then easily searchable if and when a new customer has the same problem. If the right community structure is in place, this kind of crowd-sourced support can create new brand advocates by mobilising those that already exist. As Ben Franklin once said ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.’”
The brisk, impersonal nature of social media interactions is often alienating to modern customers. To become brand advocates, they need to feel that you value them. Give your staff a place to speak to them person-to-person, to really understand how they feel about things. You’ll be amazed to discover the amount of insight that your customers will have when their communication aren’t limited to 140 characters. Brand advocates don’t necessarily expect you to tailor your product towards them, but they do want to feel listened to. Communicate with them, openly, honestly and personally. More crucially, watch the way they interact with each other and you’ll see where your strongest customer relationships are being built. Knowing what made your existing brand advocates love you so much is the key to knowing how to create new ones.