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, “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.”
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.
- 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.
- 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) 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!)
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 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 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.
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.