headshot by Tamara McCleary, National Speaker, Author, Social Media Top 1% and Relationship Economist

Every brand needs advocates. In today’s relationship economy, it has become increasingly important to develop and nurture advocates to share your message with the world. With an ever more connected world, connecting with both new and old advocates has become even easier.

How important is advocacy? One only has to look at computing giant IBM and their advocacy programs to see why developing connections is critical to their business model. From Insight to Impact and their most recent New Way to Work conference in New York City, IBM is aggressively looking to build brand advocates across the digital spectrum. IBM actively brings in current and potential customers as well as bloggers and thought leaders to their programs to build a strong core of advocacy and spread the word of their most recent innovations.

Have you considered the power of building your own legion of brand advocates? I’ve included three top tips for building and nurturing your own following of advocates.

Build Genuine Relationships

When building a solid base of advocates it’s critical to create a group that is loyal and excited about your brand. Just as I teach when I consult with brands on growing their social media, the same truth holds true here, build genuine relationships. Real relationships are built around a two-way conversation of give and take. All too often when we have our marketing hats on, we think of broadcasting out our latest pitch. While this works with radio, television and print campaigns it is woefully inadequate in the social world of advocate-building.

One part of building relationships is creating personal connections. Finding ways to meet face-
to-face is still a critical part of relationship-building. This doesn’t mean you have to put on an extravagant conference like IBM, but it does mean finding ways to create get-togethers in person or via webinar or even a simple Twitter chat. Talk to and interact with your advocates and you will find they are willing to go the extra mile to share your message.

Know Your Brand

One of the worst things you can do besides not interacting with your potential advocates, is not knowing your brand inside and out. Your connections want to know more about you and they need direction to spread the word about you. If you aren’t sure what you or your brand is about yet, look for your advocates to reflect this. Not knowing your brand and your message leaves your advocates confused as to how to advocate for you and it is a missed opportunity for growth on your own part.

Share the Rewards

While I’m not saying you should create a rewards program for your advocates, I am saying you should find ways to say “thank you” to those who are sharing your message. Most advocates are talking about you and your brand with little regard for compensation. They do so because they either love what you are about, or they love the personal connection they have built with you. What better way to acknowledge your advocates than to do a few little things for them.

Send thank you notes, reach out with a personal phone call, hold a yearly “partners party,” or better yet, reciprocate and share your advocate’s message with your customers if there is an appropriate fit.