Use Content to Create Brand Advocates
A brand advocate is an unbiased third party that generates positive word of mouth about your business. There is little stronger in contemporary communications and marketing than someone who is not employed by or paid by your business who is speaking about your business and stating your business’s value authentically and personally.
Give them something to talk about
Content is fuel for brand advocates. Stimulate involvement, engagement and conversation by generating content that is interesting, shareable and valuable to you and to your audience. Create content connected to your brand that is clear, consistent and easy to understand. Make it easy for brand advocates to access your content by publishing across your platforms: on your website, your blog and social media channels.
Step out of your own space and create content for announcements and news releases; third party content publishers like industry magazines, local and hyperlocal press, and websites of strategic partners and members of your community. Diversify your content to give your fans more to share. Create videos and share images. Remember that videos and images can strike a more immediate, more personal connection than written content. Take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with brand followers by sharing photos and videos of your business in action – photos and videos of you and your employees demonstrating in the world what you claim to do, or promise to do, online and in your marketing materials.
Embrace their voice and give them space to share it
Do not discount user generated content. Do all that you can to create an open space for customers, clients, fans and members of your community to share their experience with your business. Build space for user generated content like testimonials, reviews, photos, videos and guest blogs, on your website. Make it easy for users, many of whom become your brand advocates, to participate and share.
Reviews and unpaid blog coverage on third party sites are holy grails of brand advocate user generated content. Encourage customers, clients and partners to write about your business on their blogs and to share their experiences in the form of reviews.
Empower word of mouth brand advocates
To encourage and empower, you must first know your audience. Understand where they go to gather information and where they go to share information and experiences. Some of this depends on your product or service. If you are promoting a book you have written, Amazon is critical to your marketing and communications strategy. If you are providing a business-to-business service, get to know your audience on LinkedIn and industry forums and create content and conversation that make sense in that space.
In the midst of implementing your communications and marketing strategy, never forget the importance of the actual work that you do and of maintaining the highest standards. Deliver a positive experience that is so good, your customers and clients will be compelled to share it with their friends and colleagues.
Customer service meets marketing and communication
Word of mouth marketing for existing businesses is the place where customer service intersects with marketing and communications. The experience you give should say the things about your business you want others to say. And follow through. There is little more toxic to word of mouth marketing specifically and communications strategy in general, than failing to substantiate your claims by promising what you do not deliver.
With this in mind, build a communications strategy and a customer service plan that define clear expectations – expectations that you know your company has the resources to meet. If you must err, err on the side of under-promising and over-delivering, never over-promising and under-delivering. Surprises are not ideal in business, but if your customer is going to be surprised, do all that you can to make it a pleasant surprise.
Strengthen relationships by staying present
After following through on your sales and marketing claims, follow up with your customers to maintain and strengthen the business-customer relationship. There are a variety of ways to stay in touch with your customers and to strengthen relationships that bolster brand advocacy. For maximum results, fit them into your communications strategy in a way that connects to the kind of work you do; demonstrates the ways in which you understand your audience’s needs, priorities and expectations; and plays to your strengths as a business and as a communicator.
Whether you are using newsletters, targeted emails, social media channels, your website and traditional mail and phone campaigns, or, ideally, a combination of these, provide value to foster community and reward involvement. This can take the form of exclusive offers, early access to content or products, discounts, coupon codes, or points programs. What you offer is not as important as the ways in which you communicate your appreciation for participation and the ways in which you create a community around your brand that is authentic, open to the voices of your customers and dynamic enough to respond and interact with your audience in real ways.