People like to talk and share experiences in-person and — more powerfully, with higher visibility — on social media. Companies that listen and engage in their customers’ conversations have an opportunity to surprise and delight consumers in ways that transform individuals and their social networks into brand supporters, or even brand ambassadors.
Brand ambassadors are people with abiding beliefs in your brand — people who take it upon themselves to start conversations that support and promote your branding. Every person a brand ambassador contacts is potentially another customer.
How do you get your happy (or even unhappy) customers to evangelize your brand?
Create the Environment for Sharing
- Set up your virtual cocktail parties. How can consumers talk if they are not given a voice? Give them a comfortable space to share. You must have, at a minimum, a Twitter account, hashtags, Facebook or Weibo page, and a LinkedIn profile. Also, create a user forum so your community can converse with each other. Find out where your target customers roam online, and be everywhere they are.
- Provide great customer service. People are more likely to talk when they have had a great experience with you. Sometimes this great experience can start with a bad experience, as in the poor service scenario. Invest in training your personnel in customer service and place it at highest value.
- Make it easy for customers to share their experiences. Social media icons on the corporate website make it easy for people to click and share or post. Emailed receipts can provide quick links to the Facebook page. Customer service reps can ask customers to share on social media. Also, consider incentives: reward people for sharing by providing them a coupon or in-store credits when they share. Consider this example from Starbucks.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) October 15, 2014
- Listen. Scrape data sources — reviews and other user-generated content — for positive or negative comments. Slice and dice this data to see trends and to understand what you can do to improve their experience of your product.
- Personally connect. Reach out directly to any customer who has posted content with any strong emotion — positive or negative. Not only should you understand what is happening online on your brand, you must react to it in a personal, meaningful way.
- Translate your content. How can your global consumers engage if content is not in their language? Translate what your budget allows, looking for efficient ways to do so: blogs, knowledge bases, FAQs and review forums can be translated easily with a machine translation / light post-editing process. Here is a nice example from Airbnb.
- Hire a social media manager to tend the online conversations. This manager would recommend content for translation, supervise the response to posts/tweets, oversee the sentiment analysis process, and ensure an online company presence with the right messaging on the right channels.
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
It may seem counterintuitive that your best brand ambassadors may be born of initially negative experiences: why don’t customers sing your praises when everything goes smoothly? The reality is, people can take great service for granted. When they’re unexpectedly frustrated and disappointed, the experience stands out and people are much more likely to share it. By the same token, when customers are surprised and delighted, the experience likewise stands out enough to warrant sharing.
After a tweet-worthy negative experience that your customer expects will vanish in a bureaucratic black hole, it’s surprising and delightful when they get a timely, personal resolution. For example:
- Anne-Marie Colliander Lind who runs a company called inkrease, focusing largely on social media strategies, recently shared how she tweeted a picture of a sock that she found on the lamp in her hotel room, and how the hotel responded to turn things around.
— A-M Colliander Lind (@amclind) August 12, 2014
- Moravia’s own head of sales and marketing, Renato Beninatto, recently tweeted about his experience with a flight cancellation — how he expected a lengthy process, but it took only 20 seconds for the airline to promise funds would be back in his account within 10 days.
— Renato Beninatto (@renatobeninatto) November 1, 2014
Thousands who follow Renato and Anne-Marie received genuine, positive word-of-mouth advertising about the brands in question — and sincere public endorsements from trusted voices are more influential than Super Bowl ads.
It’s possible to surprise and delight customers in this way partly because many companies are lagging far behind consumers in their social media savvy: consumers don’t expect speedy resolution via social media, so when it happens, it’s especially powerful.
Most companies understand they need to catch up, but they just don’t know how. Moravia helps companies break it down and begin fostering their global online communities with multilingual sentiment analysis, community moderation, and other social-savvy programs. Taken step by step, it is possible to manage and optimize the content the community is putting everywhere in the form of tweets, posts, reviews and forums.
Now is a great time to dive into social media and begin converting customers into brand ambassadors. However, the day will come when consumers expect speedy resolution of their social media complaints. At that point, it may be harder to surprise, delight, and transform customers into brand ambassadors — but just think how much harder it will be for the companies that haven’t figured it out.
Have you invested in social media? What lessons have you learned about brand ambassadors and communities?