March Madness is officially underway. Notably, one of the most popular sporting events of the year, fans rally passionately and loyally for their favorite teams. This year happens to be a BIG college reunion year for me (yikes!), so perhaps I am particularly interested in following my alma mater, Villanova, during the tournament even more than other years. It has become customary now with major events, viewers and fans will engage heavily over social media to demonstrate their loyalty to their teams live during the games.


This loyalty is very similar to how the best customers feel about their favorite products and brands, which leads me to wonder, Are companies leveraging their loyal fans enough? It seems there is a huge opportunity in a few important ways:

  • Amplify the brand/messaging
  • Referral sales
  • Peer-to-peer support

It’s pretty well known that brands struggle with authenticity and have lost a lot of trust, especially in industries like Financial Services, Energy, Government, and Food Manufacturing (see  2015 Edelman Trust Barometer). As a result, trust has shifted and customers have more faith in individuals that represent a brand than the brand itself. Social media has increased this phenomenon further, as it is an easy way for customers to share their pleasure or displeasure about a product or service. As such, the potential to influence trusted connections is high and presents an opportunity for referral sales. I am more likely to trust a close friend’s opinion of a product versus someone I don’t know or the messaging from the brand itself.

Along with marketing and sales, there is an opportunity to leverage loyal customers after the sale as well. Last month, Conversocial (where I work) introduced a new offering called CROWDS, a platform for peer-to-peer support on Twitter, and a powerful way to empower a brand’s most loyal community advocates. In the first week of expanded deployment, a top 5 market cap technology company saw 3,000 responses by customers on the platform helping other customers! That’s huge. Furthermore, here is what one Customer Expert said:

“Being able to combine helping people (which I like doing) with a platform that I’m already on and using, is just awesome.”

There you have it. Companies should actively be thinking about the power of their fans.

Here are 3 suggestions for companies to get started:

  1. Recognize that today’s customers are Social and create a #SocialFirst attitude toward marketing, selling and CRM. Start keeping Social ID’s as part of the customer record. Like March Madness, where social media channels will light up during the tournament with game commentary and results, companies must understand their most socially active customers and capture this information.
  2. Identify Community Advocates: Many companies already have on line communities (which are mostly not mobile or social friendly as they exist today) but however offer a great opportunity to identify individuals who are experts of their products.
  3. Start empowering customers to engage and support each other over social channels. We are just embarking in peer-to-peer support over social media, but the early feedback is strong and the potential opportunity to do more with less and to empower the customer has never been greater!

As an avid Villanova fan, I would argue that fandom is contagious. It’s time for companies to take a page from March Madness and leverage the passion that exists with their employees and customer base today!

Here’s to March Madness! Go Villanova!