In the fairytale land that is the Internet, there’s a troll underneath nearly every bridge. In fact, there are often whole communities of them. Just ask Hillary Clinton if you don’t believe me.
Yet for all of the sour dispositions and negative brand reviews online, there are many knights in shining armor. These men and women, whom we’ll collectively call brand evangelists, will defend your products and services, figuratively sell them to friends and family and wait with baited breath for your next innovation. Some of them might even work right alongside of you.
Befriend these voices and your brand can flourish through positive social chatter and even increased sales. In this post, we’ll explore how exactly to do that.
Start a club
One of the best ways to recruit a group of brand evangelists quickly is to gather them under the umbrella of an exclusive club. Constant Contact shares excellent strategies for finding recruits, along with a sample survey brands can use to identify prospective club members. The company recommends starting with email lists or social accounts where key followers demonstrate they’re engaged via clickthroughs and shares.
Over at CopyBlogger.com, Shannon Byrne advises listening socially and interacting with commenters no matter how few followers they enjoy. Bring gratitude and intelligent asides to conversations for maximum impact and the opportunity to add new ambassadors for your brand.
Another option is to segment brand evangelists into tiers, each of which has special incentives and responsibilities, adds social UGC company ReadyPulse. Deploying your message in multiple layers can ensure it reaches a broad audience.
Finally, if you’re looking for examples of successful brand evangelist campaigns, check out the American Express Neighborhood Champions program. The initiative, which complements Small Business Saturday, equips residents of cities throughout the U.S. to rally for local businesses with downloadable banners, social media tools and more.
With the proper planning and research, brand evangelists can come from within your own ranks. Talented team members might have the right stuff to blog, post on social media or perform other tasks critical to getting your message to the masses.
Yet be warned: The perils of a half-baked brand evangelist push are many. You must know the channels you intend to use and pair them to people with the appropriate talents, notes James Carson at Econsultancy. Otherwise, content consumers might question why you’re playing in certain spaces and fail to engage in the way you hoped. Team members who wish to become brand evangelists should remember to advance their own professional brand in the process, notes Randy Hawthorne at NonprofitHub.org. Recommend and endorse fellow professionals on LinkedIn and post items to social media that speak to your core values. In doing so, you demonstrate yourself to be likable and invested.
Above all, remember that all employees offer immense value, says Michael Chalmers at Middle Georgia CEO. People overwhelmingly trust peer reviews and recommendations, meaning any cheerleaders in your company’s network has the potential to directly influence sales.
Look to the top of the ladder
In fact, the ability to be a brand evangelist extends to the C-suite. Over at Business2Community, Kyle Wong estimates nearly a quarter of his time as CEO of a startup software company is spent generating heat, meaning creating buzz around his brand. Marketing teams looking to get a serious voice in the conversation shouldn’t overlook the possibility of brand evangelism from the big boss, even if it can be a challenge to get on his or her calendar.
(And yes, there is evidence content makes money, in case you need some evidence to share.)
Identify early adopters
In a twist on the strategies we’ve discussed above, brands also have the option of recruiting evangelists to come work for them full-time. Over at Jobvite, a variety of experts recommend looking for talented types who demonstrate enthusiasm for adapting to changing marketing technology.
This post from Prominence, a social media company specializing in the employment sector, demonstrates how Dell used existing internal brand evangelists to identify great new hires.
“As a project team,” Prominence notes, “they had concluded that positively influencing Dell’s employment brand, improving their ability to attract top talent and increasing employee engagement outweighed the obvious risks of increasing Dell’s existing employees exposure to competitors or head hunters and reduced control over negative or damaging content.”
Don’t forget to use various forms of content, including earned and paid, to maximize your recruitment of internal evangelists online.
Determine where the buck stops
In the end, brand evangelism requires special types of people. It’s up to you to define who those people are and what they do best. To get into the recruitment mindset, I highly recommend a recent post by Andy Betts over at the Content Marketing Institute. He walks you through how to move beyond pageviews to capture audience personas and analytics that actually mean something tangible for your brand.
In the end, you’ll see the process is far less painful than taming a fire-breathing dragon and just about as rewarding as that magical happily ever after.
Nate Birt is a multimedia journalist, social media enthusiast and copy editor with experience at a variety of print and digital publications, and a Certified Journalist at the Visually Marketplace. Follow him on Twitter at @natebirt.