Creating a Social Media Evangelism Program

We started this series with a simple question: How Can Social Media Scale? Along the way we discussed how you can identify, classify, support, and evaluate social media evangelists (also called brand ambassadors, brand advocates, or superfans.)

In that first post, we posed the problem like this:

If you have thousands or millions of customers and prospects, assigning community managers to interact with them quickly becomes unsustainable. Each manager can only deal with a limited number of community interactions, and for brands of any size, hiring armies of social media community managers is out of the question. So the key to scaling your social media use is to convert customers into evangelists.

The intervening posts have demonstrated the power of social media evangelism and its place in the solution to the problem of social media scale. By assembling an army of fanatical evangelists, enterprises, brands, and any large organization can engage hundreds, thousands, or even millions of fans without hiring hundreds or thousands of community managers.

To start building your stable of social media evangelists, empower your community managers to:

  • Seek out highly engaged, highly enthusiastic fans – see Identifying Social Media Evangelists and Finding Social Media Evangelists
  • Evaluate candidates’ ability to influence others and remain engaged for the long term as well as their evangelistic styles – see Understanding Social Media Evangelists
  • Create a program of support and incentives for evangelists – you may be surprised at how easy it is to incent social media evangelists to champion your product. Often simply awarding titles or badges to good performers can be enough (see Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program which rewards exceptional technical community leaders who voluntarily provide technical expertise within Microsoft support communities).
  • Commit for the long run – You must ensure that the evangelism program is sustainable. This means getting buy-in from senior management and commitment from your community managers. Abandoning the program or abruptly changing the rules can do more harm than good.
  • Deputize your evangelists – Create an incentive program for evangelists to identify evangelist candidates. Your social media evangelists are very likely to encounter other fans who are highly engaged with your products. Enable them to recommend them for your program.

Because social media is social, and because enterprises’ top goal for social media should be to foster engagement, relationships, and community, we feel the only ways to scale relationships is to have lots of people working on your behalf. You can hire these folks, which may not be sustainable for your business, or you can leverage the goodwill that is already out there with an evangelism program.

The choice seems clear to us. How about you?

We’d like to hear your thoughts about online evangelism. Use the comments box below to let us know what you think. We’re especially interest in hearing about case studies of organizations who have created successful social media evangelist programs.

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6 Comments on “Creating a Social Media Evangelism Program

  1. Creating social media evangelists is a good idea, but to do this is harder than we’d like to admit. Microsoft, Apple and other companies that have organized business practices around their brands are in a good position to engage their brand enthusiasts. Most companies don’t have a good handle on who their customers are, let alone their fans. Creating evangelists around a brand necessitates a strong brand and customer-focused company from the get go. Make sure your brand is clear and your company is aligned behind it as a first step to starting a social media strategy. Then cross your fingers that you’ve engaged customers enough to care.

  2. This is a string of wonderful insights about brand building using social media. SMPG does a nice job of outlining a series of steps to consider when creating the foundation for building an active brand. They help outline several simple and key principles around creating a brand using enthusiast, creating brand advocates, and a new favorite term, superfans. When you think about brands like Nike who have done this through endorsers like Michael Jordan, you begin to see how simple this can be when you take an active role in finding the Michael Jordan’s of your brand and having them speak on behalf of your brand. The superfan now becomes the superstar.

  3. Great insights, guys. And, I’d like to add that small companies can do it too — without a huge amount of overhead. For example, I’ve been able to develop my own brand evangelists even though I run a micro-business.

    How did I do that? First I started a newsletter that ran monthly. When people wrote to me, I always sent a short message back. I helped when I could. They told others about my sales expertise and my “fan base” grew. Today I manage a blog with thousands of readers, publish a newsletter with with 70,000 subscribers and have over 9300 people following on Twitter.

    I still interact with people when they write me. Sometimes I engage my readers in research or brainstorming ideas. I get them to help me launch my books and to promote my programs.

    I’m saying all this because I don’t want to scare small businesses away from a social media evangelism program too. It’s a great way to build a business.

    • Jill,

      You are indeed a great example of how a small business can energize evangelists. The emphasis of the series that this post culminates was on the question, “How Can Social Media Scale?”( ) and the focus was on large brands and enterprises.

      As you correctly point out, a social media evangelism program can be executed by all organizations, big or small. The most important ingredient is a person who responds to, facilitates, and energizes evangelists. Your story is a great example of how to do this.

      Note: Jill was too modest to plug her own business, Selling to Big Companies ( or the fact that she is a leading Sales 2.0 strategist, speaker, and author.