This is a guest post by Danielle Hegedus.
Less than a decade ago, if you wanted to raise the profile of your company, you’d probably embark on a pricey advertising campaign to establish a solid brand identity, making you the go-to for your area of expertise.
The ability to search for a business or content instantly though, has really decreased the impact of pricey logos and design work, almost democratizing the marketplace to the point where anyone with a quality product has the potential to rise to the top.
So if everyone has the potential, what’s the difference maker?
These days, for better or for worse, the best way to build a strong brand is by developing advocates, whether they be customers/clients who can attest to the value of your work first-hand, or influential peers, “thought leaders” whose recommendations can help drive traffic your way.
But short of bribing all of your family and friends to write you great reviews, how do you cultivate authentic advocates and keep them?
Here are three strategies to building an authentic advocacy which in turn will help you build a strong brand.
Start Internally With Employee Advocates
These have to be organic.
If you require your employees to use their personal social media channels to advocate for you, the begrudging support you receive will probably be half-hearted and ultimately ineffective.
However, if you cultivate a positive work environment, hire people who believe in your mission, and always prioritize transparency, when your company is hit with a crisis your employees may be eager to come to your defense.
For instance, I used to work for the American Red Cross and know first-hand the life-saving importance of blood donations. When mass tragedy strikes, I will undoubtedly encounter someone on social media encouraging people not to donate blood, reporting that the bulk of the blood is thrown away or sold.
This is absolutely not true and I’m happy to leverage my personal credibility to set them straight.
Additionally, as a result of my posts about the good work of the Red Cross, I see people within my network sharing my posts, demystifying potentially damaging rumors and encouraging others within their sphere of influence to support the Red Cross.
Take the time to really educate your employees, volunteers, board members–all of your internal stakeholders, about the value of your work and what challenges you may come up against when it comes to brand perceptions.
If you’ve fostered a positive environment with engaged teammates, they are likely to use all the tools you give them to be your best champions.
Map Your Digital Footprint to Discover What People Are Saying About You
Do you have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account?
If so, are you monitoring the comments?
If not, you may be missing out on the opportunity to develop a relationship with a really passionate fan of your work. Maybe they’d like to write a testimonial for you?
Or maybe they are connected to a group with whom you’d like to increase your visibility?
Either way, you have to engage them to find out how to really maximize this mutual admiration society!
But of course, it’s not always rosy in the comments! You might find an angry customer (or just a troll) who is taking you to task and what is your response?
While it’s no fun to engage with someone who is just trolling for the sake of trolling (you can block those people), a disgruntled customer actually provides an opportunity for you to improve your offerings and maybe repair a relationship. Additionally, righting a wrong is one of the most authentic ways to win a customer’s respect.
Don’t just stick to mainstream social media, either.
Search for all of the platforms where there may be reviews of your work. Authenticate your accounts on those sites so that you can monitor the feed and ensure that all of the information floating around about you online is at the very least accurate.
Engage in Strategic Collaborations
So, by now, you’ve mastered the first two steps, and everyone you have ever worked with loves you, right?
Probably not, but don’t fret, maintaining relationships with the people who will truly serve as authentic advocates for your company is an ongoing process.
But what if that’s not a huge pool of people?
How do you expand your base of advocates?
There are lots of ways to find new potential advocates.
You can buy lists–the online equivalent of cold calling, but perhaps more effectively, you can target people whose interests and values seem well aligned to yours, they may just not know it yet.
For instance, I listen to a podcast called, “Crimetown.” During the commercials they promote collaborations with the television network A&E, which I’ve never watched, but now I think I should check out because I do, indeed enjoy true crime stories. Point being, get creative with your collaborations.
Partner with someone within your field to build credibility and maybe gain new followers, or completely venture out if you think a company’s target audience may have a strong interest in the work that you do.
Collaborations are typically budget-friendly opportunities if you’re a small shop, and as long as you’re partnering with companies or people that you respect, there’s not a lot of downside to taking a shot.
Your Take on how to build a Strong Brand
I hope you enjoyed this article.
What’s your take on how to build a strong brand and on how to build authentic advocates for your brand?
If you have any more ideas, please feel free to let us know by commenting below.
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About the Author
Danielle Hegedus is an Atlanta based writer. She is a regular contributor to TrustRadius, where she shares her knowledge of the latest trends in B2B news and software.