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.