What makes a Facebook brand advocate?

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Many times, the most powerful messages in Facebook marketing don’t come from an agency or a brand — they come from the fans. Many brands are realizing the power of the share or the recommendation in Facebook marketing and are recognizing brand advocates who not only love the product but are willing to tell their friends how awesome it is.

But how can you figure out who would be willing to share the message? We talked with Greg Shove, the CEO of SocialChorus, a marketing firm specializing in advocate marketing, about how brands on Facebook can identify and cater to these special fans. Shove noted that on average, 375 advocates over the course of one year can be as popular as 1 million fans.

Inside Facebook: What’s the first step in identifying a brand advocate through Facebook?

Greg Shove: I think there’s been too much concern in trying to identify the advocates. I think that different customers will have different levels of influence. Instead of trying to pre-screen them for their influence, our idea is that you can invite them to participate and you’ll find out who’s willing to be an advocate.

Some brands do want to identify first, which might be more frequent customers or more frequent customers who have worked with product review. If you think of an ecommerce site, they’ve got the data showing who’s written a review on their site and who’s also a customer. That’s one way they can have a filter. Generally, for a typical consumer brand, I would invite everybody to the party and see who comes.

IF: How can a brand be successful in doing this through Facebook?

GS: We think Facebook is a place to recruit advocates from a fanbase, or targeting people who could be customers and targeting them with ads on Facebook. What we’ve seen success with is brands building super-fan communities within their Facebook page. They’re basically inviting their fans into a smaller community.

What they’re initially using is a research survey, the chance to test a new product, the chance to participate in an event or brand experience — something like that as the initial ask or the way to reach out to a fan and have them collaborate with the brand and request a product sample. What they can participate in is joining a super-fan community, which is distinct from Facebook. Now the brand is talking directly to an advocate.

Another way to do it is to recruit through Facebook or by email targeting or by targeting in terms of similar people who are already advocates and invite them to join through that message.

The way you think about it is 1 to 3 percent of your fans are really the most valuable ones. Our point of view is our customers should have a different experience than the other fans. What we’ve done here is created a different experience, that is branded, that is for the 1 to 3 percent of your fans or customers that are truly willing to be your active advocates.

IF: For that 1 to 3 percent, what can brands do to treat them differently or reward them?

GS: You might repost the advocates’ content, if they’ve shared something — recognizing their content as an advocate and republishing it, sort of recognizing on a monthly basis your top advocates. It could be offering them something, like access to a product, or a tangible reward. It could be an invitation to a concert or an event. Maybe even have one advocate come into the office — that’s a very hand-curated way to do it.