They're Followers. Not Deal Hunters.

“Customers only follow us because they want deals and discounts.” I’ve heard this countless times in meetings. There’s often a misperception that a brand has to offer steep discounts and exclusive offers for consumers to pay attention to them on social networks. The truth is, deals are just a bonus. What they really want is to hear from the brand.

Deals and discounts certainly help, but they’ve never been the key to success. If anything, they offered a way to get people to follow a brand, giving the brand a chance to deliver a different kind of value in the form of ongoing content, which consumers value over the long-term.

Now, we have the stats to prove it.

We’re all evolving.

Facebook declared that brands needed to offer value to their communities in the form of content when it got rid of landing tabs. Facebook pages can no longer be treated like microsites. They now need to be leveraged the way they were always meant to--as a way to connect with a community of brand fans. Marketers have been forced to evolve their approaches to Facebook.

Consumers are evolving too. eMarketer reports that 59% follow companies online because they shop at their stores or purchase their products. 45% want insider knowledge and special deals, and 38% want to keep tabs on the company. The bottom line is people follow brands they advocate for.

We can leverage this mindset.

This means consumers who follow a brand are ripe with opportunity. They aren’t just people we can deliver content to. They’re individuals we can mobilize.

With mass media, advertisers are paying a network for its audience. With social media, we’re using our audience to reach their networks (their social networks). A consumer who follows a brand can be motivated to spread word of mouth, multiply engagements and deliver a brand message far more effectively than a brand can do on its own to their interpersonal networks.

The opportunity is significant. Wildfire released a report on the impact of superfans and found, among other things, that: 

  • For every 10 advocates a brand gets to join a social campaign, 13 new people interact with the brand.
  • Brands that focus on engaging advocates see three times more engagement than average brands.
  • Brand advocates generate an average of 14 earned media impressions each.

They’ve raised their hands.

Consumers who have chosen to follow a brand have raised their hands. They’re interested. They’re invested. Now, use the tools (deals, exclusive access, content, promotions, etc.) to mobilize that community into action. They’re waiting for something other than deals.

Motivating Advocacy

Advocacy is one of the most valuable results of social media marketing. It can’t be delivered or nurtured by mass media. Those channels do other things and play a different role in the marketing mix, but social media allows marketers to identify, motivate and aggregate advocates then mobilize them for business objectives.

Brands have advocates at varying levels as it takes a variety of forms from following a brand on Twitter to leaving a review to actively recommending a product or service to friends. And advocacy is a growing behavior, according to eMarketer. For many, it’s something they’ve never really done before.

Advocates Take Many Forms

There’s a fine line between reach and influence. Many marketers approach influencer marketing by evaluating the number of people reached by a person. In reality, influence should be evaluated on the ability of an individual to affect the behavior of someone else, and that person may not have a massive blog or YouTube channel with thousands of subscribers. That person could be as average as average can be. That may mean going after many advocates with quality connections versus fewer with high reach.

Motivate Behavior

Brands need to start mobilizing advocates by first identifying who they are, what they’re saying and what their motivations are. Marketers need to understand what fires up their audience to talk and share.

Then it’s about providing the reasons and the means to share, and this can best be done by opening the doors to creating a relationship with consumers and opening up the lines of communication with the brand. Brands can then think about what motivates its advocates and accelerate advocacy behavior by rewarding it with exclusive access, information and incentives. Reward the behavior you want by giving them something they want.

Don’t forget that they love your brand, so use their love to inform what you do. Brands have successfully created communities to connect advocates with each other and to create an emotional connection with the brand and unlock insights that wouldn’t otherwise reveal themselves. This can be done with forums as well as online/offline events.

The approach is fairly straightforward: identify, incentivize and aggregate. The execution is a bit more difficult, but it comes down to understanding who your brand’s advocates are and what motivates them.