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.
  • 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?