ImageIn an age where social media and brand image are irrevocably linked, brands and businesses need methods of managing their social media brand activists.  In social business, the most loyal fans aren’t just supporting brands, they define a brand.

As a result of social technologies, fans now have a global voice – and a platform to share their interests, product ideas and feedback. When it comes to how businesses plan their marketing spending, it makes sense to pay attention to what their customers are saying about their brand and to reward them for their loyalty.

The most important customers that marketers struggle to cultivate are their social brand ambassadors.  These are fans that are highly influential on social media, and often follow the brand across several social media platforms. There are three levels of brand ambassadors:

  • Brand browsers:  these are customers who occasionally visit their favorite brand’s Facebook page and may even like a few articles or photos.  They are at the first level of engagement and need extra encouragement to keep coming back.
  • Brand loyalists:  These social media butterflies “like” every Facebook post and even follow brands across several social media channels.  They are likely to frequently visit their favorite brands’ social networks, but don’t add their own content or share with their extended networks.
  • Brand accelerators:  These loyal customers are extremely valuable to brands because they refer products or promotions across several social channels. They are also highly influential fans and can influence their network.

How can brands and businesses move their customers up the brand ambassador value chain?  Here are some key tips to turning passive social media users into loyal brand accelerators.

1. Identify your “brand superstars”: Who are your most vocal and dedicated social brand ambassadors?  As a recent study by Forrester Research of the value of Facebook fans has shown, Facebook is a valuable channel for ambassador cultivation: Facebook fans are significantly more likely to purchase, engage with and recommend brands that they “like”.

2. Build a community: Most marketers already know that creating a Facebook page for their fans to congregate is a social media marketing must have.  However, occasionally posting updates doesn’t equal community outreach.  Facebook should be the platform to launch a brand advocacy program and engage customers one-on-one.

3.  Ideation – By providing interesting ways for customers to interact with brands through a series of ideation, trivia and customer feedback activities, businesses can learn valuable insights from their fans.

4.  Engagement: For most marketers, “engagement” is the magic word when it comes to their social media marketing campaign.  Providing relevant and interesting content for your customers to share identifies brands as thought leaders and proves that they’re not trying to hound Facebook “likes”.

5.  Encourage sharing: To build an effective social campaign, brands need to locate their brand accelerators and reward them for their loyalty.  Providing coupons or special promotions as rewards for sharing content and engagement encourages fans to continue their relationship with the brand.

Each of these five aspects is extremely effective in moving fans from passive visitors to highly influential brand accelerators.