Nurturing Brand Advocates: The Untapped Earned Media Opportunity

With the growth of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, consumers are now empowered with the ability to communicate with brands and one another instantaneously and publicly. They are sharing their experiences with products and brands through text, images and photos across retail, social and brand-owned properties. So how do marketers address this real-time influx of consumer contributions on the Web that surround their brands? It is imperative to gain a full understanding of these “brand connected consumers” (BCCs): what they expect as well as the impact a brand's response can have on their own shopping behaviors and those of other consumers.

Traditionally, brands enlist marketing or PR teams to manage their social presence, which can prove costly. In fact, most professional consultants charge anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per month for ongoing Facebook and Twitter content management and curation. And yet thousands of their customers' complaints, concerns and compliments remain unaddressed each and every day.

These consumers (BCCs) are informants in the digital space and present an untapped earned media opportunity for brands because they enjoy their roles as trusted sources -- making them the ideal advocates. Findings from a recent study on the Brand Connected Consumer, which were presented at the AdTech conference November 6, have shown that BCCs -- unlike the majority who only engage with brands around a specific purchase -- are likely to engage during their free time and without any direct link to a purchase. Brands must make an effort to realize the benefits of BCCs, and meeting their expectations for communication is critical.

Join in the conversation

By listening and responding, you are demonstrating that you value your customers. So don't consider this a chore -- look at the exchange as an opportunity, and try to enjoy it. This effort will increases positive sentiment, purchase intent and your overall customer base. With such high standards, the expectation is that brands are valuing the content they are sharing -- and more importantly, are awaiting some acknowledgment.  A quick "like" on Facebook can go a long way. BCCs that have had satisfactory experiences with a brand are more likely to buy and recommend your products. 

Ignore the BCC at your peril

Brands that fail to heed the feedback of this powerful consumer segment risk not only losing the original customer, but enduring the spread of negative feedback across the Web. This can lead to an exponentially detrimental impact on brand perception and the likelihood of others to purchase. While this seems obvious, research from Mindjumpers has shown that 95% of posts to brands' Facebook walls receive no response. That is shocking -- especially if you are a brand that has engaged a social agency to curate content and manage the community you are trying to cultivate online. Choosing to ignore your customer’s complaint does additional harm because they are actively posting in the same locations where other consumers are looking for information about your products on social media and retail Web sites. 

Four steps to harnessing the power of your BCCs

1.  Figure out how they can help add value.  In order to best engage BCCs, brands need to understand what they are looking for and show them how to help.

2.  Create value for them.  Establish a relationship -- it can't be a one-way street. What do they value and how can you tap into that when recognizing their contribution?

3. Stay engaged.  Remember that you are creating a relationship -- it must be ongoing. Talk to them, thank them and let them know that you are listening and appreciate their time. 

4. Have an end game.  You need to be prepared to leverage the content your advocates are sharing. They are proud of their contribution, so find a way to celebrate them.

It's important to continue to understand what these BCCs are doing and how they will want to engage in the future, as the Web is forever changing.

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