When it comes to social media channels, over 70% of people in the United States have at least one profile on social media. New users are constantly joining the virtual world on various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. We all know social media allows us to connect, share and communicate with others that hold similar interests and social circles.

Businesses of all backgrounds are capitalizing on social media’s popularity. With ever-expanding opportunities to find their ideal customers, social media bridges a very intimate gap between the consumer and the seller, connecting with them in relatable, specific and organic aspects. How can a business wade the waters between sales-forward advertising and establishing lasting relationships? The answer is 2 words, Brand Advocacy.

What Is Brand Advocacy?

Brand advocacy is about pooling resources together, such as people with a large fanbase and following, to share a brand, product or message on their social channels. In other words, it’s a way to spread the love with those who would otherwise miss out or look past the opportunity when presented to them. By sharing a message with fans who trust and interact with you, the results are of higher quality. People who leave comments and product reviews on a company or host site like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Houzz are indirect advocates. They are sharing honest feedback without an incentive.

How Does Brand Advocacy Function?

Brand advocacy is a successful organic way to gain results for a new startup company, feature product or a simple blog post. You don’t need to wait on promoting something important until your page reaches your fan goal of 50,000 followers (which of course takes longer that expected). Instead announce it to your employees, family and friends. Ask them to share the post or create their own content to discuss what you want to share. Send them a link to leave a review on a third party site. It’s amazing to see how far one Facebook post or tweet can travel. It just might even go viral!

Find Your Brand Advocates

First, you must identify what kind of content or information you want to share with the virtual world. Once that is mapped out, it’s time to do some digging. Find people with large followings on social media who share an interest in what your business or startup has to offer. Connecting with people in your niche is the most valuable, so everyone can benefit from the relationship. You can also reach out to top customers, employees, family and anyone in between. Go all out; you can never have too many friends on Facebook and followers on Instagram.

Everyone Loves Candy

The last step is providing an incentive. Of course asking for favors is an acceptable method, but the best brand advocates are ones who feel loyal to you and understand that they are appreciated. Offering them a complimentary service, gift certificate or treating them to a nice dinner, are all modest ways of making a trade without putting a price on it. Sending an email with a redeemable coupon code to anyone who rates your brand or leaves a product review is another viable option. The little steps go a long way with building up brand awareness and solidifying the brand persona.

Surprise Them

When it comes to adding value to any startup or business, both large and small, brand advocates can be very influential without the wasteful advertising costs. Add in an element of surprise to your customer service, like putting a small gadget into every delivery or shoot a behind the scenes video and send it to your email lists.

Real Brands, Real Brand Advocates

Give people something to talk about. Make them brand advocates without even asking. And be sure to stay active on all social channels (especially on Twitter and Snapchat) to scout out natives who can support you and join the community. Remember, happy people are the ones who spend money and keep you in business. #StartAdvocating

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