Every brand with a Facebook page is at risk of a social media crisis. It could arise from any number of scenarios – from ostensibly innocuous customer complaints to a huge backlash against your perceived values. A brand’s Facebook wall is now often the first stop for anyone wanting to make their fury known, and if word of that fury spreads you may find yourself on the receiving-end of a seemingly endless barrage of complaints.
Knowing how and when to respond is essential and we would always recommend a detailed crisis management plan and escalation policy as a top priority to any company using social media. It is not always appropriate for you to respond to comments online and a good crisis management plan will clearly lay out when you should respond (and how) and when you shouldn’t.
However, in addition to what you do and how your brand responds, the best brands in social media often don’t have to respond at all. Their advocates do it for them. There are always some issues and queries that you will need to respond to (specific details of their account, complaints about your service) but in many cases having other customers to respond instead of you (or as well as you) can be even more powerful.
There can be a temptation to think that only the most lauded brands such as Apple or Gucci have strong advocates, but this is not true. Every brand has advocates, people who are loyal to your brand, products, people or services and will go out of their way to tell others about this. Identifying your advocates is one task, you then need to cultivate and build relationships with them online.
Here are three tips of how you can build relationships with advocates online:
1. Involve them in your product development processes
When we work with advocates for brands, the thing they most often discuss is ideas for the brand. Things they know don’t always work in the product. Ways the product could be improved. Things they have seen that competitors and substitutes do. Advocates are often the people who have the deepest knowledge of your product and want to talk to you about it. If you make it easy for them to do this and give them access to real decision makers at your brand you will build huge social credibility with them.
2. Let them try new products first
Advocates want to try your products and will tell others about them. Whilst giving out endless freebies is not a sustainable or sensible policy, giving samples of products (especially new products) to those who advocate your brand makes sense. They will give you instant and honest feedback, will feel rewarded by getting access to product before anybody else, and will help you to spread the message about your product before its launched.
3. Get to know them
Finally, but most importantly, you need to get to know your advocates. Spend time talking to them and getting to know them so that you can have a conversation with them on a human level. On a Facebook page that we run for pet owners we know the names of our advocates dogs, we chat to them about what their dogs have done at the weekend and know when it is their birthdays. Why? Because we’re genuinely interested in them as people and as dog owners and want to get to know them. If you are to make the most of your advocates you have to be genuinely interested in them and in their lives. This kind of honesty will be clear to them and will mean that you can have a real interaction with them on a human level.