Top 3 Strategies for Building Earned Media Partnerships with Brand Evangelists

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Who doesn’t want a little free promotion and marketing? From micro-influencers to employee social media advocacy, one topic that comes up again and again here at 21 Handshake is the importance of personal relationships for successful marketing. From viral tweets to Yelp reviews, word-of-mouth dominates digital marketing. And while you can’t control what every customer says about your brand, you can take steps to build positive relationships. This starts by tapping into the customers who already love your business: brand evangelists.

Brand evangelists are the customers who rave about your business online. When they’re not tweeting about your business, they’re singing your praises to friends and friends offline. They’re the organic drivers behind your word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. And when it comes to launching a new product or combating a spate of negative PR, these evangelists are your biggest allies for a successful earned media campaign.

But how do you find these evangelists?

And, once you do find them, what’s the right strategy for reaching out? We’ve got you covered.

Follow these 3 steps to get started:

1. Get serious about social media listening.

You can’t influence the conversation if you don’t know what’s being said or who’s doing the talking. Don’t assume that satisfied (or unsatisfied customers, for that matter) are using relevant hashtags or @ mentions for your business. Only 9% of tweets mentioning companies actually start with an @ mention and 60% of company mentions are posted when you’re not in the office.

Last week, we touched on the importance of social listening for finding out what your customers or clients are really saying about you on social media. Social listening does more than just keep you in the loop on what’s being said about your company online. This strategy can also help you identify and track which people are talking the most about your business. Cross-reference this list with your most active and passionate users on Yelp and other review sites. Who unabashedly loves your company? These are the evangelists you need to contact.

2. Join the conversation.

Whether it’s a dinner party or a professional networking event, inserting yourself into the conversation at the wrong moment can be awkward. The same goes for online conversations. Look for an opportunity to make a comment. This could be as simple as replying to a complimentary tweet with a thank you message or offering suggestions/advice as appropriate, even if the evangelist didn’t directly mention your brand or business.

For example, we’re fans of Hilton’s twitter account Hilton Suggests. In addition to offering mini-curated travel guides to top destinations around the world, the account actively replies to travel questions ranging from the best BBQ in Hong Kong to where to buy the best leather jacks in Buenos Aires.

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3. Reach out to your evangelists.

Once you’re a natural part of the conversation, be sure to thank your evangelists for supporting your brand. Take the time to let them know how much their loyalty means to your business. Consider inviting them to test out a new product or service for free. Invite them to share their experience with their network. Be sure to ask for feedback on how your business could improve, too!

Remember, brand evangelists are different from social influencers. You don’t have to convince brand evangelists to love your business– they already do! They’re already promoting your business in their own way. Your mission is to harness this enthusiasm and channel it for a successful earned media campaign.

Next Steps: Partnering with Social Influencers

Once you’ve tapped into the power of brand evangelists, your next mission is to connect with social media influencers in your industry. These are influencers with major social networks who frequently participate in industry conversations. They’re movers and shakers: when they recommend a product or service, folks line up to try it. Unlike brand evangelists, they may not be sold on the value of your products yet and they’re probably not talking about your business either.

Stay tuned to discuss the best strategies for identifying these influencers and turning them into brand ambassadors.

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