Forget About Followers: 10 Tips for Nurturing Social Media Evangelists

“Following” is a pretty inadequate expectation of your social media fanbase, if you think about it while wearing your marketing hat.

Nowadays you need proactivity from people who like your brand on social media channels. Every consumer is a prospective evangelist; every post or reply is a chance to generate sharable content. So a marketer has to figure out how to convert passive “followers” into energetic brand proponents.

Identifying those potential evangelists? Not a problem anymore. There are too many solid platforms available for picking them out and diagramming their personal influence networks.

What a brand marketer needs to do is seize the initiative, to do what it takes to turn followers into endorsers and evangelists. All it takes is will – the methods are already proven in practice:

  1. Think community. If it’s just a following, an aggregation of “Likes,” it’s not yet the kind of energetic, communicative, boisterous group of brand fans and rooters you want, the kind that takes the initiative on its own, takes the brand places you never imagined, that feeds value and insight back to you. That’s a real community.
  2. Know your audience. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But unless you’ve fine-tuned your understanding of what people need and expect of your brand, you’ll probably fall short in engaging them to the degree they’re willing to be spokespeople for your brand.
  3. Make content valuable. Put in the effort to make it useful or interesting to your audience. How? See #1. Know who you’re trying to engage, and what kind of content is useful for them.
  4. Make content original. Passing along relevant content from other sources is great, but stir in original material, and often. After all, getting your own insights or brand story is probably why they’re following you, right?
  5. Ask them to share. People are happy to pass along and promote your content, if you’ve built trust and engagement with them.
  6. Reward them.  So long as it’s organic and in the spirit of your community, and not an obviously self-serving effort (Facebook , for one, has banned promotions aimed at driving follower growth), promotions and prizes are perfectly acceptable.
  7. Use hashtags, so people can post comments, ask questions, or even be part of hashtag-tracking promotions rewarding dissemination.
  8. Pictures! Even a tweet should have an image file attached. Emojis build sharing, too.
  9. Keep posts short, shorter than you may think: if you’ve maxed a tweet at 140 characters, people can’t easily attach comments and re-tweet.
  10. Converse! Have good give-and-take with key influencers with strong personal social footprints and networks. But don’t ignore other adherents who may have good comments or questions you can share with the rest.
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