By Lasse Lund

April 7th, 2016

It’s a well-known fact that your existing customers are your most profitable asset – not only do they tend to spend more, but they also cost between 500% and 2500% less to maintain than acquiring new ones.

More importantly though, satisfied customers are also more likely to recommend your products and services, offering exponentially greater value from their business beyond the initial purchase. In an age where people routinely seek product advice and information from social channels, you can create immense value if you cultivate brand advocates willing to share their own customer experiences with their followers.

Little surprise then that brand advocates are seen as vital to the realization of maximum ROI from social marketing investment. But how do you go about building brand advocates, and what are the returns you should expect to see?

If you want to create customer advocates, stop “pushing”
The best way to annoy anyone is to constantly shout marketing messages at them. Social media is about being social.

No one likes the guy who corners you at a party and launches into a sales pitch immediately after learning your name – so why would your customers enjoy the same happening on Facebook? Even if you’ve bought something from him before, that doesn’t give him the right to ambush you as order another cocktail from the bar, does it?

That kind of pitch is downright anti-social. But it is a great way to ensure that people make recommendations about your brand – specifically, they will recommend to everyone they meet that your brand needs to be avoided at all costs. As the ladder of loyalty shows, a negative interaction is the first step towards distrust and disloyalty.

Brand advocates have bigger platforms than ever
In the offline world, word of mouth used to spread very slowly, one contact at a time. A customer advocate would recommend a product to their friend, who would make a recommendation to their friend and so on, until the referrals reached critical mass and your product took off.

Social platforms like Instagram can quickly jump start the referral process because they fundamentally change the way in which your customers interact with their followers. Instead of one-to-one recommendations, an Instagram snap offers one-to-many interaction potential; a single photo shows up in the timeline feed of every follower – potentially thousands of people reached from a single product photograph or recommendation.

It definitely makes sense to try and tap into these social circles. It may be inappropriate/unwelcome for your brand to broadcast advertising messages, but there is nothing wrong with your brand advocates sharing their recommendations and observations with their thousands of followers. According to figures quoted by Business2Community, 83% of people trust independent sources with whom they have a personal relationship more than they do advertising.

It is also important to note that 1 in 5 of your loyal customers are also brand detractors – people dissatisfied with some aspect of your product or service. These individuals actually represent a valuable opportunity to deliver the kind of positive customer experiences that reverse their view of your brand and encourage them to move into the realms of the brand advocate.

Brand advocates amplify your organic spread
Aside from the direct broadcast by your brand advocates, well-crafted content will also be re-shared and reposted by their followers. This organic reach helps to spread your brand message far and wide.

There is also an inherent degree of trust conferred on each re-share, an endorsement by the account holder that the content is good. And this in turn reflects well on your brand. Positive interactions help to build trust and credibility through consistency and authenticity – just as the ladder of loyalty shows.

Organic word of mouth takes time to cultivate, but as was the case before social media, the benefits are wide-ranging and long-lasting in terms of increased customer loyalty and repeat business. So long as you continue to deliver the level of service that makes your advocates fall in love with you in the first place.

Putting it together
Customer advocates do not just appear out of nowhere. Your social team will need to take a long-term view, building relationships slowly, one person at a time.

You will also need to initiate a change of culture, focusing on delivering truly excellent customer experiences. And if management complain about the potential cost of such programs, just remind them that 85% of customers are willing to spend 25% more for better service.

Over time, consistently excellent customer experiences will yield two key benefits.

  1. They earn a repeat customer and the increased value they bring to your bottom line.
  2. The legendary brand advocate who will advertise your products and services for you – the word of mouth marketing gold that money cannot buy.

To learn more about building brand advocates and how Falcon can help you manage and grow a thriving community of fans, please arrange a quick demo.

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