Social

5 Tips for Turning Fans Into Brand Advocates

Social platforms are supposed to make communication easier, but if you’ve ever been a disgruntled customer, you probably know how difficult it is to get in touch with brands when the going gets tough. The days of reactionary social strategies are limited, though, as digital marketers sharpen up their social chops.

At SXSW 2012, Duke Chung, chairman and co-founder of Parature, and Leigh George, director of digital strategy at R2integrated, presented a panel on how brands build brand advocates by anticipating customer needs.

In a room packed full of digital marketers and scattered with a few customer service and PR professionals, the duo discussed a handful of case studies that illustrate the dos and don’ts of turning fans into advocates. Attendees also chimed in to share their horror stories and success stories.

From the discussion, we took away five solid tips on how brands can turn fans into brand advocates, without crossing the creepy line.

1. Monitor the Need You’re Satisfying

Monitoring mentions of your brand on Twitter and posts to your brand’s Facebook Page is a start, but a proactive social media strategy is about micro-targeting and responding to relevant conversations, says George.

Social media monitoring tools like Radian6 and Sysomos enable brands to monitor specific keywords and phrases that indicate customer needs.

One audience member, for example, monitors customer satisfaction via social media for McDonald’s. Tough job, yes, but she uses Radian6 to monitor words like “fail” and “cold” that show up next to McDonald’s brand name. After all, no one wants a cold Big Mac. She can then reach out to the individual with the cold hamburger and offer her apologies to make the situation right.

The same can go for energy drink companies, says George. In this case, a brand should be monitoring words like “tired” or “exhausted,” and then offer up an energy drink coupon. It’s all about being proactive.

2. Recognize the Importance of the Total Brand Experience

“Brands are really about the total experience you have with them,” says George, whether it’s a business card you receive, the interior design of an office or store, or the company’s online experience.

A company’s social media presence should reflect that, too. It shouldn’t only be focused on customer service, or only focused on shelling out discounts.

But instead, it should be a place where consumers can go to get answers to any of their questions. By anticipating that consumers will have a breadth of needs, your social strategy will be better equipped for dealing with anything that comes up.

Even more important, though, is to make sure that your company’s brand identity is being translated throughout online and offline experiences. 

Online eyewear retailer Warby Parker, for example, builds its identity on a relationship-building approach, rather than a sales approach, says George. The experience starts online, where a shopper can upload a picture of herself and see what glasses look like on her. The experience trails offline then, where she can then try on up to five frames with the Home Try-On Program. And then things get social, says George. After joining, a user receives a personalized email, inviting her to upload pictures to Warby Parker’s Facebook Page of herself with the frames on, where a Warby Parker social media rep will comment on which looks best. Now that’s a well-rounded experience.

3. Have an Escalation Plan in Place

If a brand anticipates that its customers will have a variety of needs, it is well positioned to take on any problem. In order to do that, though, an escalation plan is necessary. 

While planning out your brand’s social media strategy, indicate which departments or team members should handle what.

Meanwhile, don’t leave customers hanging. If your community management team receives a difficult question, let the customer know that your team is trying to find the right team mate to answer the inquiry. It’s better to at least let customers know you’re trying than to keep them hanging, says George.

4. Focus on the Customers You Know

Brand advocacy is about “converting the people you already know into people that are excited about you and will talk about you,” says George.

That’s right. Sometimes the best way to find new customers is to focus on the ones you already have. Empower your current customers, and they may just surprise you by helping you recruit new customers. That’s what brand advocacy is all about.

Chung pointed to Rosetta Stone’s Facebook Page as an example to witness brand advocacy in action. He says that before a Rosetta Stone rep can get to a question, you’ll see that nine or ten advocates have already responded, and the question is answered. Impressive.

5. Say You’re Sorry

What do you do when you can’t answer a question or fix the situation, though?

While many brands would ignore those posts, George says it will suffice to just apologize at the very least. Customers venting on Twitter or Facebook sometimes just want to know that they’re being heard and that someone cares.

If you can’t fix the problem, just empathize with the customer by saying that you’re sorry about the situation and that, yes, it sounds awful, and your brand is working on making things better.

And remember, sincerity goes a long way.

Were you at the #SXBrandAdv panel? What tips did you take away from the panel?

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