How to Encourage Customer Advocacy on Social Media

Opinion: How do you generate organic word of mouth?

The power of social media lies in word-of-mouth marketing suriya silsaksom/iStock

From a brand marketing perspective, the value in social media isn’t your ability to publish content and share it with followers. The true value is reaped when customers organically advocate for your brand without much prompting on your part.

In other words, the power of social media lies in word-of-mouth marketing. But what’s the secret to getting people to talk when you’re in an industry where people typically remain mum?

For many industries, the struggle is real

Certain industries are naturally conducive to social media word of mouth. For example, it’s easy to get people to talk about entertainment. Movies, music and books stand on their own merit. If the product is good—or even if it’s notably bad—people are going to talk. The same goes with food. People love to share the experiences they’ve had with different restaurants and food brands.

Other industries, however, don’t have a huge presence on social media. The legal industry is one good example. Outside of high-profile cases and court decisions, you aren’t going to see a lot of people naturally discussing law. From the business side of things, a law firm will find it challenging to get a lot of positive publicity without a targeted brand awareness campaign.

“As a law firm, we face a unique situation in that people need us, but don’t want to talk about us,” Rowdy G. Williams explains. “Most of our clients are facing some sort of challenge in their personal lives and they don’t want to plaster that on social media for the world to see. For us, the test is getting our past clients to spread positive word-of-mouth marketing in situations that make sense.”

The mental health field is another good illustration. How many people do you see posting rave reviews of their mental health counselor on Facebook? Not many, right? Although progress has been made in recent years, mental health issues are still, unfortunately, taboo for many. This makes it difficult for clinics and professionals to get the visibility they need on social media.

You could look at education as another example, although to a lesser degree. Outside of specific circles of academia, education just isn’t a stimulating topic for the general population. Whereas it’s easy to sell a physical product, trying to push something intangible like education is considerably harder.

How to get people to talk on social media

How do you get people to talk about your brand on social media when your industry doesn’t typically perform well on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? How do you encourage organic word of mouth and customer advocacy?

There’s no single textbook answer to these questions, but there are some different techniques and strategies you can use to create movement in this area. Here are a couple of relevant suggestions:

Wow people with social ‘bait’

Sometimes you need to nudge your customers to take action on social media without expressly asking them to do something. One of the ways you can do this is by providing what we’ll call social “bait.”

Social bait is something you send to a customer that makes them feel special, but that’s also easily shareable on social media. For example, a bakery might send a customer a really creative cupcake that’s been specially designed and decorated for their birthday. Do you think the customer is just going to chow down and eat the cupcake? No: They’re going to snap a picture and upload it to Instagram. See how it works?

Give back to the community

Sometimes you can’t force customer advocacy on social media. If you’re in an industry where it’s especially challenging to procure organic word-of-mouth marketing around your core products and services, a better solution might be to get indirect visibility.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a law firm and you have trouble getting organic conversation. Instead of focusing in on your legal services, perhaps you could make an effort to give back to the community and/or start a charitable foundation. This is something people will talk about, and it can easily be tied back to your brand.

Tap into the real value of social media

Social media can be powerful for pushing content, but it should be used in other ways, too. Social media is at its best as a branding tool, when customers naturally advocate for your brand and spark positive conversations about your products and services.

Whether you’re in a difficult industry like law, mental health or education, or an easier niche that’s already conducive to organic word of mouth, now’s a good time to develop a customer advocacy strategy that gives your brand the visibility it needs to soar in 2018 and the years to come.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.