Brand advocates are your most loyal, passionate, and engaged customers, and your best marketers. They don’t just buy your products- they sell your products for you. Brand advocates tweet, blog, and Yelp about you; they praise you with five-star reviews on Amazon or TripAdvisor; they talk you up in social networks, online communities, and over coffee; and they defend you from detractors.

Are you ready to turn your advocates into a powerful marketing force? If so, make sure to leverage these best practices when developing your advocacy strategy.

1. Identify Advocates using multiple touch points. If you want to build your brand army, you should be identifying advocates every which way. Plot our your customer experience and wherever your customers touch your product, service, or brand, ask (on a scale from 0-10) “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends?” Consider those who answer with a 9 or 10 your brand advocates. Place this question on your website, in emails, on social channels, in-product, etc.

2. Give Advocates lots of ways to recommend. Brand advocates like to spread the love in various ways. Some are active content creators; some are avid sharers. Give advocates the opportunity to write reviews, rate products, create testimonials, share offers, whitepapers, and other content, answer prospect’s questions, and more.

3. Leverage advocate content smartly. Advocate-generated content is pure digital gold. Lauren McCadney, Senior Social Media Manager for CDW, says that this content is better than any copywriter could come up with. Take advantage of your advocates’ enthusiasm and place their recommendations on your website and product pages, integrate it with email marketing campaigns, use it in advertising, and more.

4. Create an ongoing advocacy program, not a campaign. Advocacy should not be considered a one-off campaign. It’s an ongoing strategy and that builds over time and strengthens the brand-Advocate relationship. Advocates can support and amplify many of your marketing initiatives such as product launches, company announcements, community membership, etc. They’re even willing to give you feedback on new products, defend you from detractors, and answer prospects’ questions on your behalf.

5. Don’t pay or coach advocates. Keep recommendations for your brand authentic and genuine. Giving customers incentives taints their recommendations and is just plain lame. If your company makes great products, there’s no need to waste precious marketing dollars on inauthentic advocacy.

To learn more about energizing your best customers, check out Rob Fuggetta’s new book, “Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force.”