Most brand promoters on the manufacturing side now have at least a basic understanding of the power of social. So, they’ve started Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels – and many have gathered tons of fans and followers. But what good are one million fans on Facebook if they aren’t interacting with your brand or each other?

Think of it this way – if you set out a bowl for business cards at an event and get 50 cards, but none of the leads will call you back, was the bowl really a success? Earning a like on Facebook or a new follower on Twitter is like getting a business card. If they don’t engage further, what have you really gained?

Sound familiar? Here’s a short list of practices to start engaging your following, to move past counting “likes” and cultivate real relationships.

1. Get ‘em talking!

To each other, and with your brand – it’s a conversation, not a monologue. Listen to what your fans have to say, and be sure to respond. Many brands realize their best customers are buried somewhere in the audience. To find them, you have to get them talking. Start by providing a place for people on your site and Facebook pages to:

  • Talk about your products. People want to talk about what they like, what they don’t like, what they’d like to see next, etc. In addition to putting the customer at the heart of your business, giving them a platform in which to engage will allow you to glean valuable insights, as well.
  • Share ideas. “Why didn’t we think of that?!” Engaged consumers can drive serious product innovation.
  • Ask questions. People want to buy your stuff. They just have questions! Answer them and watch sales increase and returns decrease. Answer them on participating retail sites where hundreds or even thousands with the same question will benefit from a single effort on your part, and watch margins increase even more!
  • Swap best practices, tell stories, share recipes, etc. Boost this type of engagement by creating interesting, fun, relevant, and valuable content for them to talk about. The key is to keep it focused on your target consumer’s interests. People love to talk about shared experiences, share their own personal stories, and connect with like-minded people in connection to the brands they love.

2. Recognize your brand advocates.

Once you’ve got engaged advocates singing your praises, acknowledge them and get to know them to deepen that relationship. Their words recruit new customers on your behalf.

  • Thank them for their patronage. Manufacturers are often very disconnected from their end users. It doesn’t have to be this way! Not anymore. Find ways to get their names in your database and make sure they know you appreciate their trust in your company and your brand. A simple, personal thank you will go a long way in creating a loyal customer who will influence the purchases of future customers.
  • Make them feel special (because they are!). Give them information not yet available to the larger audience, solicit their opinion on an upcoming product idea, or perhaps even have them test it before it goes to market. Make them an insider to show them how important they are.

3. Analyze the data and use it to improve your business.

Engaged consumer advocates provide a gold-mine of valuable information that can improve every aspect of business, from R&D to marketing and sales to customer service.

Invest in people and technology to uncover trends. Trends in what your social followers and people talking about you say reveal exactly where your brand excels, and where there are opportunities to improve. Emphasize the best parts of your brand in marketing. Spread opportunities for improvement across the company to improve every area of your business. There has never been an opportunity for manufacturers to get this close to their end users and learn so much from them.

In today’s ever-changing digital landscape, the social revolution is a game changer. Study after study shows that brand promoters who facilitate and participate in engaging end consumers glean more than just SEO benefits; they can now take a bigger part in creating loyal brand advocates who, through word of mouth, create more advocates.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Ian, t’s the tp of the ceberg to be honest. From contact wth people connected to Andy Warhol and Salvador Dal to everyday artsts. Last year I was helpng wth an exhbton n Naples where a famly collectng artwork globally to sell to rase funds for research nto a termnal dsease that ther young son has. I met them on facebook then n real lfe and so many other artsts some of who knew a street artst from NYC who had become lke a brother to me n the earler 1990’s. Small world but not really as we have always had the opportunty to talk to each other.

    All would suggest s usng what’s relevant and effectve and entwnng that nto everyday lfe. Not makng t ether or technology or real tme. It’s just there and ready to be used sensbly and as a rsk jumpng n s better than standng watchng.

    My greatest conecton was wth someone n NYC who became a second father to me and a grandfather to my chldren. A total nspraton, yet just dong what people do talk lsten and talk and more of the same. Good luck wth the book.

  • Ian Greenleigh

    That’s a really cool story, Mark. I’m actually wrtng about ths knd of effect n my book about socal meda, nfluence and access. The chapter I’m workng on s about the capacty of socal to buld meanngful, “real-world” relatonshps. So many great relatonshps started on the frnges of technology–IRC, newsgroups, etc. Early adopters have a specal bond, but technology’s capacty to connect s powerful no matter one enters on the adopton curve.

  • Anonymous

    Somethng that wll grow naturally as wll the relatonshps nvolved, knwo becasue I have been nvolved n exact smlar networkng snce 1982. When nvolved n the creatve network ‘mal art’ bascally same thng just through the post not nternet. I knew 1000’s of people but ddn’t tak to them all, but dd get nformaton to them through other people. Met many, exhbted globally and wrote ncessantly to a core. All the tme sharng what we cared about and passng that on nto wder networks. Some of those people am stll connected to and talkng to and stll to meet but elarned so much from teh relatonshps along the way.

  • Ian Greenleigh

    Yep! You’ll frequently hear us say that word of mouth has always exsted (hence our name Bazaarvoce, “the voce of the marketplace”), but for the frst tme n hstory, t s beng dgtally archved and truly actonable. I thnk one change, however, s that people are sharng thngs (and trustng content) from total strangers wth shared nterests / use cases, too.

  • Anonymous

    Whether 1 or 1 mllon t’s the same as ever people talk and share thngs wth ther frends who they trust and respect. So n busness be frendly as frends are the best thng to have for those reasons alone, and logcally for all the reasons above they can be actve on your behalf becasue they beleve you.