Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finding and embracing your online evangelists in 5 minutes

Last week I wrote a post for Daily Fix on how many companies are targeting 'influencers', when they should be reaching out to their online evangelists. Happily, the post generated a vibrant discussion, which is great because I really think that companies are short-selling themselves by not approaching their online evangelists.

The biggest objection I often hear is that companies say it's hard to 'find' their evangelists. If you're a small business, you may indeed have problems finding more than a few/any online evangelists for your company. But if you are a large corporation, especially in the B2C space, you likely have many online evangelists that are creating content around and about your brand. But the hitch is, you have to LOOK for them.

Simple search tools like Google, Google Blog Search and Twitter Search can give you incredibly precise results, if you are willing to invest a little time and dig through the haystack.

Let's start out by seeing if we can find any online evangelists for Tropicana Orange Juice. First, let's search for the product, and we get 159,000 Google results. That's way too many, so let's add "i love" to the search, and now we are down to 11,000 or so results. Notice if you search for the exact term "i love tropicana orange juice", you're down to less than 200 results.

Let's do the same with Google Blog Search. The first search for Tropicana Orange Juice yields around 8,000 results. If we add "i love" to the term, we get around 1,100 results. Searching for the exact term "i love tropicana orange juice" gets us down to 10 blog results.

Finally, let's do the same with Twitter Search. Twitter search doesn't tell us the number of results for a search query, but there's plenty of people talking about the juice.

These searches took 5 mins. If I worked for Tropicana, I would subscribe to all of these searches, so that I had new results sent to me every day(Google Alerts is your friend), and I would drill down into the results I did find. And spend some time with more specific search terms.

When you find a blogger that's writing about how much they love Tropicana, email them and thank them. And think about the context of the endorsement. For example, if you find a marketing blogger that's professing their love of your product on their blog, thank them, and offer to put them in touch with someone from Tropicana to discuss how your company is marketing itself. I noticed in just glancing over the results from the above searches that there was plenty of talk about an apparent redesign of the package? The idea is, you WANT your fans talking about your product. Give them the incentive and tools to do just that.

The bottom line is your evangelists are out there, but you have to LOOK for them. You might not find 100, but you don't have to. If you only find 5 people that are excited about your brand, embrace them. Because the great thing about evangelists is....they evangelize. They actively promote your company to others, and WANT to do so. If you reach out to them, it only pours fuel on the fire, and gives them an even greater incentive to sing your praises.

Isn't it worth your time to spend a few minutes a day on your company's biggest fans?

Bonus Link: How to Launch a Successful Blogger-Outreach Program in One Day.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff! It's also important to remember to search for those who are writing negative things. Even though it's not the message any brand wants to hear, those folks can be just as "influential" as those saying wonderful things about your company.

Mack Collier said...

Ryan agree completely, but I didn't want to get into addressing negative comments in this particular post. But you are exactly right that addressing negative commenters, if done correctly, is a great way to convert them into evangelists for your brand.

In fact I'm working on another post now that addresses how one company met comment criticism head-on, and the positive ending that resulted. But thanks for the reminder!

Steven Woods said...

Definitely agreed with your post - one question though, have you seen any good tools for actually building a good social media team around that? What I mean is if you have a handful of folks in marketing, product, support, etc, who are on your "Social Media Swat Team" and looking to identify and nourish those interactions, what products work for that?

We currently have a bunch of individuals, all using TweetDeck, and then just email back and forth to coordinate the right response and identify that the person's comment has been address or will not be addressed. Seems a little bit of a "hack" solution. Any team-based social media products out there (ie, TweetDeck, but across blogs/twitter/etc AND with team coordination)?

Or, is that a product someone should build? :)

Mack Collier said...

Steve that's a great question! Of course communication is your friend, so that everyone is on the same page as far as responding. What you might could do is set up an internal wiki and as you come across comments, add them to a page for the appropriate person. If 'Bob' is your customer service guy, he could have a page on the wiki, and as each of you come across a comment/link that you think needs Bob's attention, you could add it to his page so he sees it. Then this way have everyone keep regular tabs on their page so they are getting the responses that need their specific attention.

BTW your method might not seem like the most efficient to you, but that's light years ahead of what most companies are doing!

Anonymous said...

And you know what I love? That you didn't mention the word "influencers." It doesn't matter that the person who says they love your product has zero comments on their blog or 4 followers on Twitter. Building influence is easy. Just ask any "social media guru" on Twitter that doesn't have any experience building someone's brand (except their own personal one).

And don't stop at "thank you." Movements start with the first conversation. And great movements are a continuing conversation. So continue it. Online. And then figure out how to empower and enable those fans offline. Become fans of them, even! Now that you've found them, engage. Build a relationship. If you only do it online, you're ignoring that 92% of word of mouth that happens offline. And that's a HUGE piece of the puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Mack, I read your post over at Daily Fix, and I think that this is a great follow up post to that one.
@Steven Woods brings up a good point of how do companies ensure that they are doing an appropriate job of interacting with their evangelists. I know that this is really a matter of listening and engaging, but how does a company ensure that they're not being too 'embracing' and thereby pushing their evangelists away?
An example of this is that I don't actively follow anyone with our companies Twitter account, I just set it to auto-follow.

Anonymous said...

Several bloggers in some industries have had some mud slinging boughts with each other. While it was great reading and increased readership, it seemed childish and unprofessional.

In one case, the blogger of one company made up with the other blogger offline and now sponsors the other blog. Several readers even commented that it looks like the other blogger changed his mind because the company blogger is now a sponsor.

Execs at my company are now hesitant to associate with any bloggers, even the more professional ones who really know how to diffuse/respond to negative comments.

Any thoughts on picking the right evangelists?

Anonymous said...

When the mud slinging mentioned before goes on, how much do people respect the evangelist in the first place? This is one of those things that I just don't understand yet. I'm not necessarily looking for "influencers", but I'd like to be talking to people with a backbone.

Anonymous said...


Great post. Love the comment about the funny thing evangelists evangelize... too many companies don't get that.

I was showing a prospect this very thought today and I think they (companies) don't get it because they don't see how easy it is.

Run a search. Monitor someone's chatter. Then open a line of dialog with folks via twitter, blog, etc.

Not hard, but time consuming.

Keep up the great posts.

Piotr Jakubowski said...


You'd think that companies would spend more time with the 20% of the customers that bring them the 80% of the business. I feel that Burger King is one of those that has managed to connect with its most loyal ones.

That being said, the brand evangelists obviously transcend everyone else, both good and bad. News travels fast along the internet, and not going to lie I've had some brand decisions altered after reading reviews online.

Great tips on utilizing resources to tap into this market!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Mack. I know from experience when I mention a product/company/brand on my blog how cool it feels to get a personal response. Maybe it's because I'm very community oriented, but it still is good to know that someone is out there listening and engaging.

Anonymous said...

Mack, I agree with what many people have commented on that your efficiency is light years ahead of where many other businesses are, and it's a shame that so many companies choose to outright ignore what others are saying about them by turning a deaf ear.

But when a company does "see the light" and starts listening and finding those who are evangelizing (or detracting) their products, I think you still have to look at who the influencers are. Maybe it's something as simple as a Vinn diagram with the influencers on the left, evangelizers (again, or detractors) on the right, and the influential evangeliezers in the middle. You then spend the majority of your effort on those in the middle and get the most return on your time/monetary investment.

Anonymous said...

Great Post.

CP+B does this with Burger King, like mentioned.

More impressive - Alex Bogusky does it for his own brand.

I asked him a question on my blog. He found it within hours and responded with a sincere, thoughtful post.