written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource Jesse Bouman
A scene from an old comedy, Hudsucker Proxy, has a hula-hooping youngster who knows how to put on a show. Other pre-teens spot this new toy, and the kid who knows how to dazzle with it and soon it’s a craze. This is a classic example, albeit simple-minded, of a single influential spreading enthusiasm and affecting the choices of many. Companies, from start-ups to mega corporations, search out these evangelists to kick start their product and multiply sales and markets; a challenging task that requires multiple elements. And social media is the method of the moment. Nothing else matches the reach, immediacy and influence of what’s in our pockets and at our fingertips.
Social media channels are a natural way to identify people who are genuinely taken with your brand. Because of its two-way communication, you can find a pattern of individuals who are interacting with your brand on a daily or weekly basis. There are apps that help you identify your most active users: like Booshaka for Facebook and Crowdbooster for Twitter. And a tool like Klout helps you measure their influence. Simple logic: if they’re taking the time to engage with you on a regular basis, they’re fans of what you do. This is the good start, but the need is to translate relatively unfocused interest into real and effective evangelism.
The short answer: recruit a team of evangelists. Many think that evangelists–and how they help– just happens. Users like your product so much that they’ll tell people on their own. Definitely the case for some companies (i.e. Apple) but not everyone enjoys that luxury. To kick start your group of evangelists, recruit them.
Identify who your power users are. Recognize them publicly. Connect with them on an emotional level to really get them excited. Privately engage these users and learn more about them and why they’re so passionate about your product. In general, people want to be respected and listened to. By offering the slightest interest and respect for their opinion, you’re making a huge impact on that individual. This might be the extent to your outreach, or you could create a formal brand ambassador program that rewards power users. Either way, now you have users who are much more likely and willing to go out and evangelize your product to their network.
Converting fans isn’t an overnight task. First you must create a sticky, and valuable product. Then produce first-rate content that connects and engages this user base. Finally, you can identify those power users who may be converted into evangelists. Knowing them, talking with them, being appropriately full of respect and gratitude after finding them can have great impact. Take time to get to know your online fans and listen to what they have to say. They’re the ones who eventually validate your product to new users.