How to Build Brand Advocates through Social Media Marketing

happy customers

Social media is now a major part of most businesses’ marketing plans. It drives much traffic, builds brand awareness and even creates sales. Some companies like Comcast have even found it to be an effective customer service tool.

But an often neglected side of social media is its great ability to build promoters and brand advocates. These are basically volunteer marketing reps that are writing, sharing and building awareness about your business on social media…and the best part is, they are doing it for free.

Think about it: finding, encouraging and rewarding about 20 or more brand advocates for your business is like hiring a small army of PR people for pennies on the dollar.

It could truly be the difference between obscurity and fame for you. So, let me show you the steps you need to take in order to create and cultivate these brand advocates.

Step #1: Identify potential brand advocates

First things first. We know from the Edison Research report last year that more and more Americans are using social media. In fact, 52% of Americans over the age of 12 use at least one social media platform. The predominant social site that is used is Facebook: 51% of Americans have an account.

social stats edison

That is huge. What this means to you is that you need to narrow your focus and find out not only who your prospect is, but who among your followers is already sharing and promoting your content.

See, just because you have a large following doesn’t mean you have any potential brand advocates on it. Lots of people follow people on Facebook and Twitter to simply get the follow back.

To see how this could get ugly and messy just take a look at Michael Hyatt and Chris Brogan, who both stopped following over 100,000 people.

The secret is to key in on who is sharing your content. You can do this by using some of these tools:

  • Tweet Reach – This is a simple tool that can show you how far your tweets are going, who is sharing them and whom they’ve touched.
  • Argyle Social – This simple tool breaks down the analytics of your social campaigns across Facebook and Twitter.
  • ReFollow – This slick tool allows you to check in on your Twitter followers, identify your influencers and promoters and see how to engage these promoters to keep them around.
  • Twitter Search – You can also search your domain name or Twitter handle on this search tool to see what results come up. But the history is not very deep, so you would have to stay on top of this daily.
  • Traackr – This app allows you to see who is influential in your space, what they are sharing and how they are sharing your content.

Step #2: Gaining rapport with your brand advocates

Once you’ve identified a dozen or so key people who are promoting your stuff, it’s now time to turn up the heat and keep them on board.

Here are a few tactics to keeping these promoters engaged:

  • Comment – Sometimes all you have to do is reply or post a comment to a brand advocate. If it’s on a blog post, try to swing by to thank them. Be specific in your compliment to demonstrate that you actually read what they wrote.
  • Reply – If they frequently tweet your posts, reply to them and thank them. Furthermore, once every two weeks, you should dedicate an individual tweet to each of your best brand advocates. Calling them out and giving them praise will encourage their behavior.
  • Share – If they are sharing your content on Facebook, return the favor and share their content too. This reciprocal behavior will endear them to you.
  • Email – About once every two months, you should send a personal email to one of your brand advocates. Let them know you really appreciate their support and couldn’t do what you are doing without them.
  • Promoter of the week  Create a contest where each week you highlight someone who has been sharing a lot of your content. It’s really important that you explain why they are your “Promoter of the week.” Be specific. Say something like “She retweeted 3 of my posts, commented on 15 Facebook posts and re-shared two Google+ posts.” When people see there is a value to their sharing, you are likely to encourage more of that behavior.

Step #3: Find out what motivates them

Here’s a surprising statistic for you: brand advocates are 83% more likely to share information than your average user. In fact, more than half of these brand advocates look at sharing as relaxation.

brand data

If you look at some of the other responses on that chart, you’ll see other things that motivate them. For example:

  • To be entertained – Can you give brand advocates content that will make them laugh or cry? A good meme is easy to put together, and they are super easy to share. Create a meme every two weeks and unleash it to your advocates.
  • To solve problems – If your brand advocates are problem solvers, then create content that gives them a chance to exercise those muscles. This could be a daily or weekly contest. Google’s “Google a Day“ is a good example.
  • To get information – Do they want data on a particular topic? OKCupid’s blog blew up because of its strategic use of data. Who wouldn’t want to read and share a post called “10 Charts about Sex”?
  • To learn how to do things – Can you create video tutorials or long form how-to posts with detailed steps that teach your readers and promoters new things? This is my strategy on QuickSprout.

Step #4: Make it easy to share your content

Your next step is to make that great content easy to share.

  • Making social sharing buttons very visible  – Although they will probably share your content even if the buttons are hard to find, you should never make your advocates have to hunt down your social media buttons. Use a social sharing plug in that puts your social buttons on the side of your post so it scrolls up and down the screen (similar to what I do on QuickSprout).
  • Ask brand advocates to share content – Never be too shy to come out and ask your brand advocates to share content. They would love to help. Sometimes they will need a nudge to actually do it… In fact, you can generate 4 times as many re-tweets by simply putting “please RT” on your own tweets. This was proven by Dan Zarella in a study of re-tweets.
  • Use Tribber  You can actually pick up an immediate boost in promoters when you join Triberr. This site gathers like-minded bloggers together in a tribe, providing these benefits:
    • Automatic social sharing – The moment you post content, it is automatically shared on Twitter by all of your other tribe members.
    • Increase reach of your content – You don’t have to belong to just one tribe. You can join several, expanding your network exponentially. For instance, one Triberr member belongs to six different tribes. That amounts to a 6 million-wide reach and equals 177 tweets for every post he publishes immediately. That’s not counting all the re-tweets.
    • More high-quality visits to your site – Since these tribe members have the same interest as you do, their audiences are going to be high-target audiences. That will translate to good traffic to your site.

Step #5: Give your brand advocates freedom

Never make your brand advocates feel like they are forced to praise you. Give them plenty of freedom to talk about you and your brand any way they like. In fact, encourage them to be brutal and invite tough feedback.

Giving advocates that sort of freedom will only encourage them even more. Here’s how to support that kind of freedom:

  • Ask – Round up your top advocates via email and get their honest feedback on a particular post you wrote, your product or an idea you are working on.
  • Tell – Then ask their permission to share their thoughtful feedback. People want to be known for their valuable insights.
  • Reward – Finally, let your advocates know that you are starting a program that actually rewards your best critics. In fact, make this program public, and it could be a great way to turn haters of your brand into advocates.


Creating and cultivating a large group of advocates is a really great marketing tactic that can pay huge dividends in the growth of your brand, increase of your subscribers and boost in your profit. Best of all, the financial investment to create brand advocates is really small compared to the pay off.

What other tactics have you used to create and encourage brand advocates?


  1. Jeff Epstein :

    Great post Neil. Although mentioned near the end of the post, rewarding your Advocates is an awesome way to increase participation and activity.

    Rewards need not be cash, they can be points, discounts, product or even swag.

    At Ambassador ( we give companies the tools to track, manage & reward these Advocates.

  2. Neil, your “case study” links on your SEO sales page (the one with the Tech Crunch guy in the ad) all aren’t working. Hope this helps.

  3. Steven Sefton :

    Great post. Love the simplicity of using the people you engage with and engage with you to grow your brand.

    I will implement this tomorrow with one of our brands, take notes and report back on how we do with this.

    Thanks again Neil.

  4. KS @ WPCircle :

    Great Post!! Totally agree with “Making it easy to share content”. The placement of social media sharing icons is really important. I have found major change in articles shared after improving the location of share icons in one of my blogs.

    “keeping promoters engaged” and “rewarding” them are great techniques. I like the idea how you rewarded your Top Commentator with backlinks in sidebar.

  5. Namita Patel :

    My colleague, whom I induced to start running races with me, is a nearly-barefoot runner who runs in sole-less Minnetonka moccasins. He sent them a picture of himself running our last race in a pair of them on their Facebook page, and they wrote him back inviting him to share more pics, and posted his on their wall. Talk of brand advocacy!

  6. Lots of great tips in this one, all broken down into easy-to-follow steps. Thanks Neil!

  7. Awesome Article Neil ..As Always.. !!

    You wont believe, we have identified couple of people who are very regularly checking our Facebook page and liking and sharing our content like it is their duty.
    We were thinking of rewarding them by gifting our product, and you wrote this post. We shall do this immediately now.
    Thanks Again.

  8. | Andrew Youderian :

    Another way to build brand advocates is to take a botched situation – especially if it’s reported publicly in a comment thread on Facebook – and do an amazing job of taking care of it.

    When we have customers report problems on our Facebook page, we usually try to respond in minutes (not hours) with the best possible solutions, sometimes overnight shipping them the correct items. Not only are they stoked, but others in the community can see how we take care of customer issues and it goes a long way toward building advocates in the social space.

    • Definitely,

      You bring up a good point Andrew. You should always try to fix any problems your customers face when possible. The quicker you can do this the better it will look upon your business.

  9. Steve [proXPN] :

    I’m new to Triberr but it looks like a powerhouse! Bringing users together with the same interests, promoting each other. Awesome!

  10. Another awesome post Neil. I recommend taking a look at Socialbro. It’s similar to Refollow and has lot’s of interesting data to look at and you can easily switch between profiles by the click of a button unlike Refollow.
    Also, snapbird is better than twitter search .You can search right back to anyone’s very first tweet.

    • Cool, thanks for the suggestions Anthony. I haven’t heard of those I will have to check them out. 🙂

  11. Muthuri Kinyamu :

    point No.5 has really worked for me when I started blogging and guides me through when I am managing social media presence on behalf of a client (Brand/individual).
    I have also found Triberr nice. Thanks Neil for sharing this!
    You’re a BIG DEAL!

  12. How about a post on getting brand advocates 😉

  13. I stumbled across your blog a few days ago as it had been recommended via people on an AdsenseFlippers post – looks like the comments were spot on – great overview and list of handy tools for making social work well 🙂

  14. David - Boundless Opportunities :

    This is a great post Neil.

    I like how at the end you point out that you should allow your brand advocates to give honest and brutal feedback. I think this also doubles up as great respondents for a customer survey which means you reduce cost on that as well.

    I definitely see myself using this tips as my company grows. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you David,

      It is important to listen to all ideas and take into consideration any input. Let me know how these tips work out for you.

  15. Sheyi | :


    Thanks for posting this and it just sums up what I have been believing for a while now. Even e-mail marketing (it works wonders though) does not have enough reach compare to social media.

    I’d check and refresh my facebook profile everytime with my phone but I don’t do that with my email.

    Social media can help a newbie make money so fast by using it well too.


    • No problem, happy to help. Social media is definitely a necessity. If you want a successful business you need to be fully utilizing it.

  16. BrewSEO | Inbound Marketing Blog :

    I’ve found that the quickest way to build a new brand (from a social standpoint) is to help people. You can use Tweet-Deck to find people who are asking for help in your niche. Sometimes, I search twitter for people near me by specifying, “near:Redding within:40 miles” and then I give them free advice.

    However you want to help people is up to you. You will definitely start to get noticed faster, and build stronger brand advocates if you are willing to lend a helping hand.

  17. Doctor@ Control Birth :

    Lots of great tips in this one, all broken down into easy-to-follow steps. Thanks Neil!

  18. John Abrena :

    Awesome post Neil!

    I liked that reward system you mentioned at the end of the post, really good stuff to do if you want to keep/multiply your followers/brand advocates (hence your “Top Commenters” list). A mention or a blogroll of active participants on your site is a great ego bait for anyone, and it’s an instant share once they got that spot you made just for them.

  19. Stocks on Wall Street :

    Thanks for the advice Neil, much appreciated!

  20. Really nice tips! I totally agree with the tip about making easier to our users to share our content! That makes such a difference….really good..well written content with valuable information combined with an easy system to share it is totally free marketing!

  21. Yogindernath :

    These tips are very handy. The point which really made a lot of sense is sending an email to your brand advocates every one or two months. It definitely creates a sense of personal touch and moreover the best thing is if possible share the content of the promoters as a mutual friendly job.

  22. Shaam @ Online Funding :

    Social media is the trending on internet marketing where people spend there pleasures time on it.If we use the right method we can find some conversion through social media clear view you have given Neil which most of the people doesn’t no its worth this post helps them a lot

  23. Amit Wadhwa :

    I think that this concept of having brand ambassadors has been around for centuries but can truly be exploited to grow business with the advent of social media because of the pervasive nature of the medium.

  24. In addition to Ambassador, my company- Fancorps, offers an excellent platform for managing and rewarding a brand Advocate community.

    Additional benefits include custom branding options, customizable initiatives, and Facebook and Mobile apps!

    Check us out at

    We use all of the strategies listed here when building and growing our Brand Advocacy Communities, great post Neil!

  25. Executive Programs :

    Very interesting topic to be discussed. I like the way you explained the ideas and tips for rewarding brand advocates..

  26. Thanks Neil, easy to understand and take action

  27. Great article! Lots of great tips, Zappos is a great example of this type of marketing.

  28. Certainly great tips and you have provided them in detail. Thanks Neil for providing such a worthy information 🙂

  29. Could also add a new social monitoring service called . Aggregates comments based on keywords on not just Twitter and Facebook but Google+, Disqus comments, plus WordPress blogs & vBulletins forums. Alerts get delivered daily by email.


  30. Barbara McKinney :

    Well said Neil and thanks for this!

    Do agree that social media sites are the prime source of traffics to your site and the amazing fact is that you can actually generate sales leads from this campaign. All of us i think admit that social media campaign requires lot of efforts and patience to acquire results.

  31. Peter Jones @AndroidRays :

    Is Pinterest, Digg and Stumble Upon also comes under Social Media ??

  32. wordpress installation service :

    Tweetreach tool is new for me would like to give a try…also check out this tool it helps to find where your twitter followers located on a map. Map them by Country, State or city.

  33. emobile_developer :

    For any organization or business increasing brand awareness is one of the greatest marketing challenges. I have seen such businesses, despite spending lots of money, they can increase their brand awareness. Today, social media has become a boon for such organizations and businesses. It is low expensive and highly effective way of increasing brand awareness. I would like to give more importance to ‘Content’. The content is the king and i have been emphasizing more on content because i believe that content should be attractive and only and only it will be viral and help in brand awareness. Thanks Neil, there are several good tips in the stuff that i will love to follow.

  34. Free publicity really is the unicorn of marketing, isn’t it, Neil? I really liked your tips in Step #2, and for small companies who are desperate to get their content shared, missing the chance to do any of those things seems unthinkable. As far as new suggestions go, I would strongly urge all restaurateurs and retail store owners to get on Foursquare. It’s practically built to focus on brand advocates, even granting them ‘mayoral’ status. Great post!

  35. thank you, the social sharing buttons are really helpfull but don’t you think they make the website slow ? nice post 🙂

  36. Social Media is the right source to market our product and get reach the people in time

  37. I would say that since panda and penguin, the social networking aspect has definately become a larger factor to take into consideration.

  38. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    Using strategically placed sharing buttons and chasing news about new designers and models that have just appeared I managed to get huge number of shares and amazing social activity on this post:

  39. The new principles of marketing :

    Useful content and thoroughly enjoying your site. Keep up the great work.

  40. Social media is the parent category to follow. First is how to build personal brand through the different social media networks. Here is how to build your personal brand through facebook and i know you will really love this stuff.

  41. RichPeopleThings :

    Love the idea of using brand advocates and having people promote your things for you.

  42. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    I’m building my army of brand advocates by holding a weekly Saturday morning coffee, topics include SEO, sales, conversions….!

  43. mymobilebusiness :

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  44. I will right away snatch your rss as I can not to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me recognise so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  45. get paid on facebook :

    Thanks for some other fantastic article. Where else may just anybody get that type of information in such an ideal method of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such info.

  46. Hey neil,
    “Give your brand advocates freedom” i totally agree with this point. you have efficiently summarize all the important points. Well done.


  47. Jeff Gonzalez beauty schools :

    I think it is of utmost importance today that we measure who and what our brand is not just Analyticallybut through non traditional methods of today through our social media.

  48. If we talking about social media then it is a best way to get traffic on your site,such as Facebook, twitter, linked in, StumbleUpon and many others.its help to get more traffic on your site.

  49. Thanks for posting this and it just sums up what I have been believing for a while now. Social Media was really good idea.

  50. blog o gwiazdach :

    wonderful points altogether, you just won emblem new|a new} reader. What would you suggest in regards to your publish that you simply made a few days in the past? Any positive?

  51. I completely agree. Customers and followers provide an opportunity to create unique content through social media platforms that can help promote a business. By keeping them involved with engaging content, they can act as brand promoters at no cost whatsoever.

  52. Kathey Frutoz :

    Hey Neil. I always look forward to reading your articles. I also started a health & fitness blog close to the same time as you. I was hoping you’d check out my latest article and give me some feedback. I’ve started following your advice by being very detailed with whatever subject the article is focused on and it proves to be working.

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