Wondering how your biggest fans can help?
In this article, you'll discover how to turn engaged fans and followers into brand champions.
Why Brand Champions Matter to Social Visibility
As marketers prepare to feel the full effects of evolving social media algorithms, relationships are the new reach. More than ever, a core group of highly engaged fans is more valuable than millions of disengaged followers, and they can have a huge impact on your marketing efforts.
Social media engagement has a snowball effect. When one person interacts with your post, that person is telling the algorithm your content is valuable. As more people engage with the post, endorsing its value, the algorithm will deliver it to more news feeds. That engagement also will increase the likelihood that other people will be inclined to interact with your post.
By effectively mobilizing your brand champions, you can turn that engagement snowball into an avalanche.
For instance, Wendy's retweets posts from fans and adds entertaining personal captions to maximize the engagement snowball effect and build devoted brand champions. As Wendy's content gets more retweets, more users are likely to see and engage with it.
While brand champions are a powerful ally across all social media platforms, they're particularly important to Facebook marketers. Earlier this year, Facebook updated its news feed algorithm to give more weight to content from friends and family, leaving less room for public posts.
Rather than passive engagement, the new algorithm prioritizes “meaningful interactions between people.” The change, which affects all of the platforms Facebook owns, isn't designed to exclude publishers from the news feed, but rather to incentivize content that inspires personal connections and conversations.
To stay relevant in light of the new algorithm, mobilize your brand champions to generate these meaningful interactions across your social media platforms.
#1: Find Potential Brand Champions
We all have those fans: the follower who comments on every Facebook post, and the employee who tweets about every product launch. These are your brand champions, the people who are most enthusiastic about what your business offers and deeply invested in its success. How do you zero in on those people? Look to social first.
It may seem obvious, but always respond to your fans. It's the best way to develop a human voice for your brand and make your audience feel valued. To illustrate, MoonPie has developed a quirky voice on Twitter and is known for getting into witty back-and-forths with its followers.
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As you consistently engage on social media, evaluate your social media audience to identify your most engaged fans. With a little encouragement, a follower who has interacted with multiple posts has the potential to become a brand champion.
You can use SocialRank to identify your most engaged Twitter and Instagram followers. It's a free tool that allows you to sort your audience into categories like “most valuable” (followers with the most clout) and “most engaged” (followers who interact with your content most frequently).
SocialRank also offers a paid version that allows you to compare your audience to other brands. The price point for the paid version, Market Intel, varies depending on the size of your business.
Once you've identified your biggest fans, reward them for their enthusiasm by using your platform to put them in the spotlight. Depending on your industry and the size of your business, your brand champions may come from your family and friends, or a large base of employees and customers.
Be creative when evaluating the interests of your brand's inner circle and customize your approach based on which sector your brand champion comes from.
Strengthen Potential Brand Champion Relationships With a Social Shoutout
A little recognition on social media can turn a lukewarm follower into a brand fanatic. Once you've used a tool like SocialRank to identify your most shoutout-worthy fans, you can show your appreciation by featuring them on your page. Just be sure to have permission when sharing user-generated content.
Here are a few examples of brands that recognize their fans on social media.
Apple launched its official Instagram account last year to showcase iPhone photography exclusively. The company invited iPhone users to submit photos and videos using the hashtag #ShotoniPhone. The account features the best submissions, including quotes and voiceovers by the photographers, as well as the photographers' Instagram handles.
It's a great way to showcase the product, while lending the weight of Apple's platform to some of the brand's biggest fans.
Thomas & Friends shares photos submitted by parents of children using Thomas & Friends merchandise. In addition to being great content that feels authentic and human, it's a meaningful way to recognize fans who are highly engaged with the brand on social media.
The automotive brand MINI ran a social media competition around the hashtag #FitsInMyMINI. They invited MINI owners to submit photos of surprising things they were able to fit in the famously small cars. The prize? MINI shared the best photos on its Instagram account. The prospect of recognition is often more than enough motivation to inspire participation.
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Holidays provide an opportunity to recognize your employee champions and devoted social media fans. Is a core group of your customer base comprised of teachers? Give them a shoutout during Teacher Appreciation Week. Want to promote your company's positive work culture? Highlight employee friendships on Best Friends Day.
The National Day Calendar is a resource for random niche holidays that align with your marketing goals.
Pro Tip: Message individuals directly when they're featured in a social media campaign. Encourage them to engage with the post. Make sure to include a direct link to the content to make it as easy as possible for the featured brand champion to access and share it. Here's an example message:
#2: Recruit Brand Champions
When engaging your brand's inner circle, communication is key. Your brand champions typically won't be marketing experts, so you'll want to provide clear direction and help them understand the impact of their efforts.
To inspire meaningful, sustainable engagement, consider having some variation of the following conversation:
If you're reaching out to employees, you might communicate this message via email or during informal conversations around the water cooler. If you don't have in-person access or personal contact information for your brand champions, consider delivering the message via a direct social media message.
Once you've convinced these devoted fans that what they're doing is important, provide them with the tools and strategies they need to do it effectively.
#3: Make It Easy for Brand Champions to Help You
To engage with your content, your fans first have to find it. Unfortunately, you can't rely on social media algorithms to deliver every post to their news feeds. Here are a few creative ways to ensure your biggest fans have easy access to your content.
Encourage Devoted Fans to Choose “See First” on Your Facebook Page
If your brand's content is among the first posts they see in their news feeds, they're more likely to engage.
To ensure they'll see your page's content first, they need to visit your page, click the Following button, and change the setting from Default to See First.
Create Exclusive Communities for Your Most Engaged Fans
Give your most devoted fans behind-the-scenes access to your best content.
The Instant Pot Community on Facebook has more than a million members and a very active discussion board. Users post recipes and request advice from other members, and the brand advertises new products and sales.
To join the group, potential members have to answer a few questions to confirm they're product users. The group feels exclusive and most of the content is user-generated and useful.
Other options for communities include private Pinterest boards and LinkedIn groups.
Include Links to Social Campaigns in Your Email Newsletter
Constant Contact is a popular tool for generating email newsletters. The user-friendly platform makes it easy to include links to your most important social media campaigns. Pricing varies depending on the features you want and the size of your contact list, but it's only $20 per month for a basic plan with fewer than 500 contacts.
#4: Gamify Participation to Formally Recognize Top Brand Champions
Gamification (applying elements of gameplay to your social media content) is another way to recognize and engage your most enthusiastic fans. Incorporating contests, points, leaderboards, and prizes invokes the intrinsic motivation derived from competition and inspires meaningful participation from your followers.
What's the point of being in the lead if no one knows you're winning? Use leaderboards to give your audience real-time updates on your social media competitions and keep participants motivated.
rise.global is a great tool for creating leaderboards and scorecards. The basic version is free for 0-100 users. To access additional features, the monthly cost ranges from $10.80 to $59.49.
To recognize Twitter engagement, identify users based on their Twitter handles. Give users a score based on how many times they've engaged with your content.
Then share the leaderboard across your social media platforms, especially in your exclusive communities.
What do you think? Is your business actively using brand champions? What tips can you offer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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