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Businesses embrace the value of customers singing their brand’s praises to colleagues, family, and friends whether in-person or online. Yet many don’t know who their brand enthusiasts are. Make it a priority to identify those brand advocates who are championing your products or services. Only then can you develop them into a marketer’s dream army.

Defining Brand Advocacy

There is a difference between brand loyalty and brand advocacy. Someone who is loyal consistently purchases your product or service. Someone who is an advocate champions your brand and actively promotes your products or services to others.

Take a look at this visualization from Deloitte to understand where advocates sit on the customer spectrum:

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We all want customers who are loyal; they represent repeat sales and are often easier to up-sell and cross-sell. But, brand advocates (sometimes called brand evangelists or brand champions), are more active and vocal on your behalf. These are the people who will make referrals and provide valuable insights. They also give the marketing team access to user generated content, which can offer authenticity and credibility to campaigns to convert prospects into customers.

84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and trust
— Nielsen

Brand Advocate Behaviors

You have no shortage of data on your customers, but how exactly do you identify the people who will advocate for your brand? There are several behaviors you can look for:

Social shoutouts  — Existing customers who take to social media to share positive experiences are a good start. It’s especially good when they also take the time to find your Instagram, twitter handle, Facebook page, or other social channel profile to make sure you hear them!

Social shares  — People who share your social content on their own feeds are helping out your marketing team. Identify the people who are consistently linking to your content or giving your own social posts greater reach.

Returning visitors  — Site visitors who regularly return to engage with your content, spend longer on your site, and subscribe to content are likely advocates.

Other Ways to Identify Advocates

How else can you find the brand advocates in your databases? Talk to other departments — customer support or sales, for instance — and ask them to identify people who have shared their satisfaction with your product or services.

Follow up with the people who have sent positive feedback via email, in forums, or on social media. Consider how uncommon it is for people to take the time to share accolades — as ready as we are to complain — and empower (read: provide an incentive) those brand enthusiasts to share their passion for your product more widely as brand advocates.

Reach out to the customers who 1. Actually fill out the follow-up survey you send after a brand engagement and 2. Answer that they are “highly likely” to recommend your brand. Ask them to actually do so!

Finally, track brand activity on sites such as Google Plus or Yelp. Identify people who are sharing the love. Thank them.

At the same time, don’t overlook the critics. When you encounter someone with something negative to say, work to turn the experience around. By doing all you can to make things better, you might be cultivating a new brand advocate along the way!