Monthly Archives: December 2011

Year-End Roundup: Posts You May Have Missed

Year-End Roundup: Posts You May Have Missed

Lots of people do year-end retrospectives on various topics. We’d like to take a look at the year’s blog posts and highlight our (not necessarily your) favorites.

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Social Media Hall of Shame  The Hall is our compendium of social media fails (epic and otherwise) by some of the savviest brands, enterprises and companies around. It’s due for an update in January 2012, so watch for that.
Flashing the Mob With Digital Community Officers  We’ve certainly seen enough evidence that the State needs to pay attention to social media this year. SMPG Partner Ken Morris, JD, proposes that Digital Community Officers make their policing objectives transparent and become a part of the digital community.
8 Steps to Starting a Business Relationship Using Social Media  SMPG Partner Robbie Johnson has designed a simple eight-step process for B2B sales using social media. The proven process has enabled him to land accounts with major multibillion dollar corporations—without ever doing a sales pitch.
Social Media on Less Than Two Hours a Day  We often get asked how long it takes to maintain a social media presence. In this post, we laid out social media tasks that will take you less than two hours a day, but which will broaden and deepen your social media presence.
What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media  We dug up an 18-month-old post on Mashable on the subject of CIOs and social media and created a series—still ongoing—of reactions and suggestions.
Leadership on the Cutting Edge  We wax philosophical on the role of leadership during times of rapid, threatening change like, say, now, with social media, mobile, tablets, the always-on enterprise, and other intimidating and rapid technological change.
How Can Social Media Scale?  Customer 2.0 is currently more influenced by friends’ – or even strange but real people – recommendations than almost any other single buying decision input. If the old ways of marketing and advertising go the way of the buggy whip or the bookstore, how can social media scale to take its place? This is the first post of a series that proposes the answer: creating a social media evangelist program.
The Tyranny of the Social Customer  A story on another blog about a guy who tried to return worn out shoes for full credit and then threatened the retailer with Facebook sent a chill up our spines. Has social media now given customers too much power?
How to Identify a Bad Social Media Proposal  We lose it a bit when a colleague gets a brain-dead social media proposal and starts to take it seriously!

Many other of our posts are excerpts from our book, Be a Person: The Social Operating Manual for Enterprises. To follow them in order, start at What is Social Media? We are slowly serializing the book in this space. If you can’t wait (we’re only up to page 124 of 430), you can buy the book at

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.

How to Identify a Bad Social Media Proposal

How to Identify a Bad Social Media Proposal

There is a simple way to tell if that social media proposal on your desk is any good. And I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, let’s think about the reason you have the proposal in the first place.

Chances are there’s someone in your organization who’s really gung ho about social media. Good for them. Social media has tremendous potential to help pretty much any organization, whether you’re a small business, enterprise, or non-profit.

There’s also a good chance that the excited person has met someone who “does” social media (don’t get me started) and the proposal on your desk is from that person/company.

The first thing you should consider is the quality of that referral. Did the excited person do any due diligence, or did he or she just meet someone they thought was cool? If this is the case, be sure to get at least one or two proposals before making a decision.

Next, open the proposal and look at its table of contents or, lacking that, scan the major headings. Here’s the format of an actual bad social media proposal:

  • Online Objectives
  • Social Media Maintenance
  • Content Curation
  • Content Creation
  • Google Analytics Monitoring & Measurement
  • Proposed Budget
  • Discussion of Success Metrics

So what’s not to like? They talk about some cool terms like objectives, curation, monitoring and measurement, and success metrics. And these are all good aspects of a tactical social media program. But there’s something missing. Right up front.

Perhaps what we’re looking for is hidden under Online Objectives, so take a look at that, or the similarly-named section of the proposal on your desk. Here’s what the example proposal says, in brief:

  • Reach target market of [whoever] 18-70 and [whoever] throughout the [geographic area]
  • Provide for focus on [segment1], [segment2] and [segment3]
  • Stress the [unique selling proposition] of the [site, business, product, etc.]

Now if this proposal was unsolicited, the social media company is assuming an awful lot about your online audience! You can’t possibly succeed at social media (or really, at pretty much anything) if you don’t understand your audience/customers/prospects.

So let’s put the single easiest way to tell if you are looking at a bad social media proposal into a simple statement: If the very first task is not to do an analysis of your audience and your objectives for your audience, dump the proposal in the trash.

So many organizations have gone headlong and half-cocked into social media and then wondered if it was worth it. IMHO, the main reason social media projects fail to produce meaningful results (beyond, “Hey, we’ve got a Facebook page!”) is because they aren’t linked to actual business objectives and informed by research and understanding of the target audience.

I’ll give you an example. A machine tool company called us up and wanted a proposal to create an online community for CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machine users. We did a little research and found there’s already quite a vibrant community at So we suggested another way to reach that community: Starting to participate in it.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has famously said, “Communities already exist. Instead, think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.”

If your prospective social media company doesn’t comprehend that understanding your existing online community is job #1, then find someone who does.

Update 1/10/12 I ran into an interesting series of posts on the BundlePost blog starting with Important Elements Of An Agency Social Media Proposal – Part 1 of 5 – The Meeting  As of this writing, they’ve done three of the five parts, but I’ll bet you’ll be able to tell if the folks who gave you that social media proposal on your desk followed their instructions.

Supporting Social Media Evangelists

Supporting Social Media Evangelists

We’ve talked about the specific ways to support the different evangelism styles in the previous post, Understanding Social Media Evangelists. Here are some general ideas for supporting your evangelists. Remember, not all will work with each type of evangelist.

  • Give your online supporters tools to identify themselves
    • Avatars for Twitter
    • Badges for Websites and social network profiles
  • Create specialized mailing lists for them to join
  • Create a special online forum exclusively for evangelists
  • Create fan pages and groups on Facebook and other social networks for them to join
  • Enable evangelists to invite others to join
  • Offer stickers, T-shirts, fabric badges, other trinkets
  • Create contests with prizes

In the end, you’ll need to ask your evangelists how you can best support them. Be sure to devote enough time to their care and feeding. They may be the most important people in your organization.

The Importance of Stories

Here’s a good example of online evangelism and it comes from a non-profit.

I’ve known my friend Les LaMotte for a decade, but we hadn’t talked in about three years. One night, Les opened a chat with me on Facebook and told me his story. I knew that he had been working with a non-profit he founded called Sudan Hope. He told me the story of how, together with the Sudanese people, they had built a paved road and a boat, and brought wireless Internet to remote villages. He talked about his struggles and successes and told me he was seek­ing support for a movie on the plight of the Sudanese.

Over the next month or so, I must have told and emailed 15 of my friends about what Les was doing, and included a link to his donations page.

What’s that worth? It took less than half an hour out of Les’ day to multiply his reach 15-fold.

What if your entire organization, and your entire community, was engaged in this type of evangelism, if even for half an hour a week? Think of how you would multiply your marketing and brand development efforts.

So how can you put together a social media evangelism program? That’s the subject of the final post in this series, Creating a Social Media Evangelism Program. If you’d like to weigh in on the conversation, reply below and perhaps I’ll incorporate your ideas in the next post.

See the previous posts in this series: How Can Social Media Scale?How to Scale Social Media,  and Identifying Social Media Evangelists.

Characteristics of a Good Social Media Evangelist

We’ve talked about the specific ways to support social media evangelists in the previous post, Supporting Social Media Evangelists. But how can you tell which of your evangelist candidates will give you the best performance?

No matter the style of the evangelist, you will probably value the following characteristics of a good one.

  • Energy
  • Good Leadership
  • Community-Oriented
  • Good Storyteller
  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Inspires Trust
  • Credible
  • Loyal
  • Open
  • Accessible
  • Warm

In his groundbreaking technology evangelism book, Selling the Dream,[1] Kawasaki created the following checklist to determine if you are an evangelist:

  • Do you have a desire to make a difference?
  • Do you fearlessly believe in a cause?
  • Do you work for a cause for the intrinsic satisfaction that it brings?
  • Do you give up other things to make a commitment?
  • Do you enjoy fighting the mediocre, the mundane and the status quo?
  • Do you get accused of being driven, showing chutzpah,[2] or having more guts than brains?
  • Does your spouse threaten to leave you?

While we’re not sure items 5-7 will be appropriate for all organizations, the first four certainly are.

For a good overview of online evangelism, read the three-part blog posts entitled, Evangelism beyond boundaries[3] by Tata Communications International’s president, Vinod Kumar.

This series started with a question, How Can Social Media Scale? Obviously, we think that cultivating evangelists is key to the answer. The next post, Creating a Social Media Evangelism Program, sums up our proposed approach for scaling the relationships that are key to social media success.

We’d like to hear your thoughts about online evangelism. Use the comments box below to let us know what you think.

So what do you do with evangelist candidates once you understand their styles and how to approach them? That’s the subject of the next post in this series, Supporting 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.

See the previous posts in this series: How Can Social Media Scale?How to Scale Social Media,  and Identifying Social Media Evangelists,

[1] Kawasaki’s Selling the Dream:

[2] Chutzpah, or audacity:

[3] Kumar’s Evangelism beyond boundaries:

Understanding Social Media Evangelists

Once you’ve found evangelist candidates, you’ll want to begin to establish relationships with them. Before doing so, it’s helpful to realize that there are various styles of evangelists.

  • Intellectual
    Intellectual evangelists enjoy using rationality, ideas and evidence to persuade. They are typically analytical, logical, and inquisitive. They will most likely engage with your community by debating ideas and presenting rational evidence. They typically are more concerned with what people think than with what they feel.An intellectual evangelist is a good fit for communities or community members who like to engage on a rational level. If your organization’s appeal is primarily visceral, this type of evangelist may not be a good fit.Support the intellectual evangelist with lots of facts, figures, and other empirical evidence. They are likely to respond well to objective manifestations of their success, such as awards, badges, and admission to special clubs and hierarchies.
  • Testimonial
    This type of evangelist has been there and done that and is best used as a representative for products and services that change lives. They’ve used your products or services to solve a problem or improve their lives in some way. They have the war stories to establish credibility. But their experience doesn’t have to be dramatic, based in life-changing events and conflicts. In fact, ordinary stories may connect with a larger range of people. Testimonial evangelists are generally good communicators as well as good listeners. They have a talent for connecting their experiences with your community’s.A testimonial evangelist can be an asset to almost any organization, but particularly one whose business purpose is emotionally affecting.Support the testimonial evangelist with lots of case studies and personal stories from those you serve. They may respond well to objective manifestations of their success, but are likely to be more driven by the number and quality of their relationships.
  • Interpersonal
    The interpersonal evangelist thrives on creating relationships with community members and influencing them via these relationships. They generally have a very conversational online style and are compassionate and sensitive. They are obviously friendship-oriented and have an ability to focus on individuals in the community and their needs.An interpersonal evangelist, like the testimonial evangelist, can be an asset to almost any organization. Organizations where interpersonal bonds in the community are especially strong can best leverage this type of evangelist.Support the testimonial evangelist with online tools that enable them to easily create and maintain personal relationships. They may respond well to objective manifestations of their success, but, like the testimonial evangelist, are likely to be more driven by the number and quality of their relationships and a personal relationship with your organization’s staff and leadership.
  • Invitational
    Invitational evangelists specialize in attracting new members to the community. This type of evangelist is a gatherer, identifying potential community members and bringing them into the fold. They are also extremely open, hospitable, and persuasive, and live for meeting new people. They are extremely committed and welcome opportunities to invite prospects to experience the community.The invitational evangelist fits best in an organization that has lots of online and offline events or other gatherings that the evangelist can help attract prospects to.Support the inherently social invitational evangelist by providing opportunities for them to work their magic. They are likely to respond to some objective measurements, such as number of prospects converted, but mostly to a sense of belonging to your organization and making a difference.

No matter the evangelism style your organization prefers, it’s important to distinguish between an evangelist and a fanatic.

Famous online personality and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki said, “Fanatics forcefully push their agenda whereas an Evangelist always puts the customer first.” For customer in this quote we would substitute community. You don’t really want fanatics. While their energy and devotion are not in question, they may lack a variety of other characteristics that would make them a good evangelist, notably subtlety. And their passion may actually get in the way of their effectiveness: think the overly-zealous salesperson who won’t take no for an answer.

So what do you do with evangelist candidates once you understand their styles and how to approach them? That’s the subject of the next post in this series, Characteristics of a Good Social Media Evangelist. If you’d like to weigh in on the conversation, reply below and perhaps I’ll incorporate your ideas in the next post.

See the previous posts in this series: How Can Social Media Scale?How to Scale Social Media,  and Identifying Social Media Evangelists,

Finding Social Media Evangelists

The goal of social networking is not to be a one-person show, but to create an army of people to take the message out. That requires training, teaching them how to use tools, and how to bring the message to others.

According to Jeremiah Owyang, formerly of Forrester Research and now with Altimeter,[1] “An evan­gelist’s role is to go beyond understanding and get others to believe in your product or service. This is beyond just communication and advertising and gets to the fundamental root of human com­munications, building trust.”

Characters and Evangelists
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Research consistently shows that people are many times more likely to take a friend’s recommendation than a stranger’s. Some examples:

  • In a study conducted by social networking site myYearbook, 81 percent of respondents said they’d received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74 percent of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision.[2]
  • A Nielsen study found 90 percent or consumers surveyed noted that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online.[3]
  • Evangelists write more than twice as many posts about brands and forward between two and three times more of other people’s online communications. They are also are 50% more likely to create a post that influences a purchase.

Further, the new Open Graph process pioneered by Facebook (which enables users to not only use their Facebook account info to log in to other sites, but also makes their activities on those sites visible on Facebook – see the recent Spotify integration[4]) makes every user a potential evangelist, as their friends can discover information about their interests, leading to an interest in your products.

Several large social media sites have signed on to the Open Graph idea, including the Web radio station Pandora, and as a result, Pandora users can:

  • See all friends who use Pandora
  • See the artists and songs that are liked by friends
  • Import their Facebook pictures into their Pandora profiles, a key way to promote personal brand
  • Listen to friends’ stations (thanks, Andrew Eklund, for the great Medeski, Martin & Wood station!)

Finding Evangelists

Chances are you already have some evangelists, or can readily identify candidates based on your offline community. There are probably lots of other active evangelists already online, and many of them are already using social media to proselytize for you.

As a first step in finding current and potential evangelists, you need to identify related blogs, Twitterers, YouTubers, LinkedIn connections, and Facebook people who have significant influence, followers and traffic. Here are some ideas about how to do this.

  • Google “I love [your product, organization]” — If you’ve got the nerve, and want to know your enemy, also Google “I hate [your product, organization]”
  • Google Blog Search your product, organization — You can use Google Blog Search[5] or any of a multitude of other free blog monitoring tools
  • Search Twitter and Facebook — Twitter’s search has gotten a lot better. You can also now search tweets on search engines as well. Facebook search is OK, and Google indexes it as well.
  • Set up Google Alerts and Twitter Alerts — Google Alerts[6] can send you daily updates based on your keywords. You can set up and save a keyword search on Twitter but you’ll need to manually run it. You can set up automated alerts using TweetBeep.[7]

Don’t forget your staff! Reach out to them for ideas on finding evangelists.

So what do you do with evangelist candidates once you find them? That’s the subject of the next post in this series, Understanding 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.

See the previous posts in this series: How Can Social Media Scale?How to Scale Social Media,  and Identifying Social Media Evangelists,

[1] Quoted by Ashley Lomas:

[2] Click Z, Reach Your Customers While Social Media Peaks:

[3] Nielsen’s Global Advertising: Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers the Most:

[4] ReadWriteWeb’s Here’s What Spotify’s New Facebook Integration Looks Like:

[5] Google Blog Search:

[6] Google Alerts:

[7] TweetBeep:

The Tyranny of the Social Customer

The Tyranny of the Social Customer

A small section of a recent post called 3 Ways Social Media Affects Brands on the Practical Commerce site sent a chill up my spine.

What was so horrifying, you ask? Well, if you’ve got the stomach to see the terrifying sentences I saw, read on. If you manage a brand or sell a product, you may not want to continue.

Best Buy You Disappoint Me

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OK, enough warning, here’s the passage, in a section called Customer Experiences Become Public:

I’m aware of a shopper who recently tried to return a pair of logging boots to a retailer. The boots had been worn for nearly three months. They were scuffed, scratched, and torn. When the retailer offered to refund half of the purchase price instead of returning every penny, the shopper threatened to post to Facebook about his bad experience.

OMG, the guy tried to return worn out shoes for full credit and then threatened the retailer with Facebook! The worst thing about this is, we don’t know if the shop owner caved. The writer, ARMANDO ROGGIO, doesn’t tell us!

The very fact that an unreasonable customer can get his or her way by threatening an adverse review on social media should have anybody who sells anything shaking in their fashionable boots.

If the poor retailer did cave in, it’s only because he or she doesn’t truly understand a fundamental truth about social media: the crowd knows. Put another way: the best cure for negative speech is more speech. In still other words, if you’re doing right by most of your customers, you don’t need to worry about—may not need to even acknowledge—the occasional nasty remark.

Roggio suggests this in the next paragraph of his post: “Similarly, a shopper recently posted on the same retailer’s Facebook page about how helpful the company had been during a recent shopping experience.” He goes on to say that this kind of experience (the negative one, not the positive ones) can negatively affect a brand’s reputation.


Let me give you a counter-example from a recent article about a review on Yelp, the restaurant (among other things) rating site.

Here’s a Yelp review of the restaurant Anella:

…we’d gone out of our way to make reservations for 7 of us, and while 3 of us showed up on time, the rest of our party was lost somewhere in Gpoint. At which point the uber bitchy hostess says, we can only hold your table until 9:15pm and then we’re giving it away. We offered to go ahead and order for our lost compadres and apologized profusely, promising that our companions were definitely on their way, but she refused to make any accommodations. She snidely suggested we try to sit at the bar. ALL SEVEN OF US.

Now I’ve eaten at a lot of hoity toity restaurants, but NEVER have I encountered such a terrible attitude from a hostess. You’d think we were trying to get a table at Daniel. And we made a reservation!! This is Gpoint, dude. How do you get off with an attitude like that for a sweet neighborhood restaurant in Gpoint?!?!?! I am never coming back.

Maybe she just needs to get laid.

That’s a pretty bad review, right? But Anella gets four of five stars from 134 reviews on Yelp, so what’s the worry? There are a handful of one-star reviews, and, of course, any business can have off days, just like any customer can. However, the hostess involved in the review took offense to the personal attack, and posted a reply that not only follows our dictate to Be a Person but also turns the negative into a positive:

Hi Joan. I am the hostess, although most people know me as the owner. I just wanted to say thanks so much for making it clear what our super reasonable seating policy is. We do not seat incomplete parties in our 30 seat restaurant, especially on a Saturday night, especially when we have other customers who have been waiting an hour for a table. And lets be honest Joan, you and two of your friends arrived at 9:15 for your 9:00 reservation, the rest of your party was still not complete at 9:25 when I finally gave away your table. Your friend had made the reservation that afternoon for 8 people and I explained to him our rules. He said no problem. Sorry you felt the need to personally attack me about this, Joan. Seems likes it best for all involved that you’ve sworn to never return.

Nicely done. The customer is NOT always right, and people know that. I’m sure you have  been out on the town with a friend who has gone ballistic over a small fault in service. How did you feel? I mean, besides embarrassed? You felt like your friend was acting like a jerk.

It’s the same on social media. If a prospective buyer sees hundreds of good comments or reviews and one or two cranky ones, the buyer will understand. We all encounter trolls in real life and tend to discount what they say. It’s exactly the same online.

So don’t go crazy if you see a negative comment online (see the post, CIOs: Techniques for Handling Social Media Negatives, from our What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media series for more info), and don’t panic.

If you’re really worried about the negative Nellie, you can encourage your best customers to either address the matter directly, or (preferably) just comment honestly about their own experiences. In a recent example, in the CNBC article, Defending Your Reputation With a Strong Offense, a dentist was dismayed to find negative reviews of her practice online:

[S]he encouraged her patients to write their own reviews. While those more favorable contributions helped push down the negative ones for a while, they started to reappear a month later.

Since subscribing to about six months ago, the negative reviews have  become harder to find.

By the way, this all doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about negative reactions on social media. See our Social Media Hall of Shame for examples of companies who have been bitten by social media negativity. But if you act honestly and respond respectfully when necessary, you’re going to be lots better off than if you act like, say, Nestle or Motrin, to name just two hapless companies inducted into the Hall.

I hope that doggone lumberjack didn’t get the full refund he demanded, or even the half refund the retailer so graciously offered!

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.