Identifying Social Media Evangelists

In the first post in this series How Can Social Media Scale? we identified a problem with scaling social media: social media community managers have limited capacity to deal with community interactions, and hiring legions of them is not scalable. In the second post, How to Scale Social Media, we identified creating social media evangelists as the answer. In this post, we take a look at how to go about identifying evangelist.

So, your goal is to identify, cultivate, and empower your rabid supporters to become your evangelists.

You probably already recognize that not all people using social media are equal in their ability to influence others. The trick is to identify and enlist those who are already talking about and recommending your products or services, especially those with a significant online and social media presence.

You may, for example, start with your organization’s customer support people and concentrate on those who actively work with your clients. You may, as in our Taco Bell example in the previous post, scan your various social media assets for those who often speak out in favor of your brand. But as Web celeb Guy Kawasaki once put it, “You don’t know who the best evangelist will be for your product or service” so be sure to cast a wide net.

This means going beyond your existing social media assets to other places where people are talking about you, and that means doing some kind of social media monitoring. A discussion of this practice is beyond the scope of this post, but one of the quickest and easiest ways to monitor is to set up several Google Alerts. Be sure to include alerts for negative as well as positive keywords. This is because you may find those who will defend you against negative posts will be your best evangelists.

That said, the easiest and perhaps best source of potential evangelists are your best customers. They’re generally easy to find, and they are likely to be motivated to help you spread the word and serve others. Use the following steps to harvest potential evangelists, and evangelistic messages, from customer groups.

  • Interview Satisfied Customers
    Talk to those who use your products and get them to agree to participate in interviews.
  • Ask What Caused Them to Buy
    What was it about your organization, products, or employees that made them buy? Try to distinguish between a commitment to your product and a commitment to your organization — the resulting messages you create may be different.
  • Ask What They See as the Value of Your Services
    Get customers to put into words your value proposition. What makes your business or its products worthwhile? What distinguishes your enterprise from similar organizations? What is most important about the way you address the need you fill?
  • Ask How They Describe Your Products to Others
    Ask them for the elevator speech — how they would describe your products to a stranger during an average elevator ride. You’re looking for a statement that takes 30-60 seconds to deliver. You should already have written your version of your elevator speech. But you may be surprised what others come up with.
  • Write Down Their Answers Word for Word
    Resist the temptation to edit what they tell you during these discussions. Aim to exactly record what they have said. If you pre-edit their contributions, you may miss a chance to learn an important nuance you might not have caught.
  • Use Their Material in Your Recruitment and Branding Messages
    During your interviews, you have discovered how your community looks at you and speaks about you. Just as it is important to capture this material verbatim, it’s also important to use it to fashion or modify your messaging. Ideally, the messaging you use for evangelist recruiting will be very similar to the rest of your messaging. Remember, using the voice of the customer will help you create the relationship and conversations with your community.
  • Test and Refine Your Messaging at Offline Events
    Before designing online campaigns, test out your messaging offline. Be sure to gather reactions from a wide variety of stakeholders.
  • Use Your Refined Messaging in Your Marketing Materials
    If it works online, it’s likely to work through conventional marketing as well. Consider using your new approach in all your marketing materials, but not before you’ve proved it online.

Once you have an approach mapped out, you’re ready to find evangelists, which we’ll talk about in the next post in this series, Finding Social Media Evangelists.  If you’d like to weigh in on the conversation, reply below and perhaps I’ll incorporate your ideas in the next post.

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