Building Brand Advocacy: Don’t Do What Buffer Just Did

Note: This post originally appeared on The Social Media Freelancer, an online community exclusively for social media professionals and freelancers.

Last week, I wrote a gushing post about Buffer’s epic content marketing efforts.

Buffer couldn’t have asked for a better post: totally unsolicited, 100-percent authentic, and perhaps the most beneficial part, it was written by someone (me) who has more than 10,000 people in his network — the majority of whom are completely within Buffer’s target audience.

After tweeting the post a few times, I received two replies from Buffer, which you can see here:

 
 
 

While it was nice to receive these two responses, I think we can all agree that they’re expected.

The problem is, expected doesn’t build brand advocacy. Expected doesn’t show (as opposed to tell) customers and prospects that you genuinely care. Expected doesn’t turn prospects into customers, customers into brand loyalists, and brand loyalists into brand advocates.

In today’s online world, where the noise of social media and content marketing only keeps getting deafeningly noisier, brand advocates are integral for breaking through this noise. In other words, word-of-mouth on steroids. Brand advocates don’t just tell their friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances how much they love their brand; they effectively broadcast videos, photos and other pieces of content to their social circles.
 

When you acknowledge brand advocacy by showing people you care in ways that are unexpected, your brand advocates reward you with more brand advocacy, more often.


Anyone who works in social media knows just how important and powerful brand advocacy can be. Which is why I was so surprised that Buffer didn’t do anything more than expected.

Brand advocacy isn’t complicated; nor does it require a lot of time, resources and money. It’s actually quite simple: If someone advocates for your brand on social media, recognize their awesomeness — somehow, some way.

For example, my team and I work with a restaurant that has more than 2,000 online reviews. Whenever a customer goes out of their way to write a remarkable review of the restaurant, we don’t just thank for them for their review. That would be expected.

Instead, we send them a t-shirt, or a gift card to enjoy their next meal on the house, or we do something that makes the customer feel as though we truly appreciate the time and effort they took to write the review. It’s not spectacular, but it’s unexpected. We know because these customers tell us that they didn’t expect such a gesture from the client, even if it’s just a free t-shirt.

Guess what? The cycle repeats itself. Every time we engage these people, they keep advocating for the restaurant. They return more often and check-in on Facebook to tell their friends about it; they take a photo of their food and post it on Instagram; they write more reviews; they spend more money.
 

Expected doesn’t turn prospects into customers, customers into brand loyalists, and brand loyalists into brand advocates.


When you acknowledge brand advocacy by showing people you care in ways that are unexpected, your brand advocates reward you with more brand advocacy, more often.

Free t-shirts and gift cards might work for the restaurant I mentioned above, but they may or may not for you. Ultimately, you need to analyze what works for your brand and your advocates.

The bottom line is: Today’s consumers have access to more options and more of your competitors than ever before. If you’re not going to (1) take the time and make the effort to develop brand advocacy, and then (2) show unexpected appreciation for your advocates, consumers will take their money (and their friends) somewhere else.


Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive his weekly column.