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How to Build Brand Evangelists with 3 Winning Examples

Ross Wilson.
By: Ross Wilson  |   November 26, 2012  |   View Comments

Obtaining a lot of followers from a social media campaign can open up a much larger audience to share your brand's message, but even a handful of brand evangelists can do a lot more for your company than hundreds of mute listeners. A brand evangelist is a true fan, someone who wants to talk about and share your message and get involved in any way they can. In this article, we'll take a look at how to engage an online community and encourage more followers to get active and involved in a social media campaign.


Who Are the Brand Evangelists?

Brand evangelists are a minority of your followers, but they are one that should be cultivated and catered to. They are the thought leaders and trendsetters who are willing to get more involved than the average fan. Evangelists can show casual fans that they can do more than simply Liking a brand; they can go the extra mile by becoming a contributing factor in a brand's online community.

In this TED episode, Derek Sivers shows just how important these thought leaders can be to get a movement started. Brand evangelists are the first to start talking and sharing your message, but they also play a crucial role to the rest of your audience and social media community.

Brand evangelists don't necessarily have to be limited to fans and potential customers. Companies whose brand or vision align well with each other often have similar fan bases, and becoming an active force or a brand evangelist for another company's brand can encourage them to do the same for you. Whether it's a partner company or another brand with a similar ethos, building networks with other brands can open up your company to a lot more engagement and exposure.

How to Encourage Fans to Become Your Brand Evangelists

Garnering brand evangelists takes more than just putting your brand's message out to the public. People need reasons to get involved and clear ways to contribute. Donna Karan set itself apart with its social media by becoming more than just a landing page and update source for a brand. The high-end fashion brand set out to actually become a part of its target market's community, and provide a platform for not just the brand but also become a go-to source for New York lifestyle news and updates.

DKNY PR Girl - Twitter

Taking this approach can help make a brand actually mean something more to the consumer than just the products the brand represents. It's about the image that a brand stands for, and if that image aligns with how a fan envisions their own lifestyle, they could be a likely candidate to become a brand evangelist. Then the brand is no longer simply a name behind some products. It stands for an idea that they feel represents them, an image that they want to exude themselves.

"Friends" Over "Likes"

Having faithful and active "friends" of your brand can be much more valuable than garnering countless, meaningless Facebook Likes. It takes some extra time within the campaign to garner and develop these friendships, but they can really pay off. Communication with the active members of in a social network does a lot to help build these relationships. By showing them that the brand is more than just a one-way platform for promotion, they'll be that much more likely to care about the brand.

These active contributors can be helpful to your brand in many ways. They will often be the most vocal members on your forums, Facebook, and Twitter pages. They can provide helpful feedback, and will be sure to let you know how they actually feel about a product. They also show the less vocal users that there is a community around your brand, and that the space for interaction and engagement exists.

Coca-Cola's Facebook Branding Success

A social media campaign that encourages user-generated content can be a great way to convert more fans into brand evangelists. Coca-Cola has done an amazing job with its social media presence by providing a great forum for user driven content. Coke's Facebook page was actually started by loyal fans of the beverage, who are some of the most active and helpful brand evangelists a company could hope for.

When the fan page passed one million fans, Facebook informed Coca-Cola that they would have to claim their page and run it themselves. However, rather than turning their page into simply a hub for news and updates about the brand, Coke embraced the online community and encouraged their fans to keep engaging and interacting and contributing to their page. They actually hired the initial page creators, Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski, who continue to work for Coke on a freelance basis.

One thing that can be attractive to users is the access to a much wider community. Presumably, this community has a lot in common, or they at least share this one common interest. In sharing appreciation for the brand, ideally fans won't just be getting the word out to their own social networks, they'll also be backed by an entire community of like-minded individuals.

Facebook's VP of Global Marketing, Carolyn Everson, has high hopes for Coke's enormous Facebook community. She is hoping to see Coke take this community and encourage them to contribute and "do something good." And in ways, it is. The Coca-Cola fan page often gives it's fans ways to donate to worthy causes, even if it's just by buying their product. Many people want to help work towards a good cause, and if a brand can make it easy for them to do so, they'll be more inclined to donate.

Building a Community

YouTube is another great online community with the potential to engage, interact with, and convert casual users into brand evangelists. Active, video-posting YouTube users can generate lots of content and are likely to share or even respond to a video they like with clips of their own content. Mod Cloth has had huge success by generating a lot of their own great content on Youtube, but also by calling for their fans to get involved and create their own.

Mod Cloth on YouTube

Mod Cloth has also successfully engaged its community by running contests to encourage users to contribute their ideas via video. They offer very basic rewards like gift certificates, which cost them almost nothing when you think about how much publicity a few good user-created videos can get. They also call on fans to share their ideas that are relevant and helpful to Mod Cloth's fans, giving fans a chance to really contribute and be a part of the community.

Mod Cloth has also been tweaking and updating its campaign regularly as it comes to better understand its growing online community, and this responsiveness to their fans has really paid off. By figuring out more about their fans and their lifestyles, Mod Cloth found creative ways to get involved with their community.

By creating content that is relevant to their users, even content that is outside of a brand's product line, and encouraging their followers to create their own contributions, Mod Cloth successfully turned their fan base into a growing community, and they encouraged many of their fans to step up to the next stage of involvement and become evangelists for the brand.

Building Brand Evangelism

Brand Evangelists are the most crucial exterior driving forces behind a successful social media campaign. Encouraging users to interact and get involved with a brand takes more than just promoting the products a brand puts out. It's about building a community that believes in what the brand stands for. Finding a brand's niche audience, or common ground with its fan base, can help create a stronger sense of community between the brand and its fans. Just a handful of loyal and vocal fans will be able to do a lot of advertising for you. And once they start creating their own content for your brand, a community of creators can start to form, adding their own personality and individuality to your social media endeavors.


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2 thoughts on “How to Build Brand Evangelists with 3 Winning Examples

  1. Glen "Famine" Swan

    Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

    I've cultivated many brand evangelist over the years within the video game industry for the communities I've managed. Any time, money or resources you can sink into establishing or supporting those hardcore fans (as we called them) is worth the return. There is nothing greater than building a strong relationship with someone who absolutely loves what you do and wants to share with others why you rock so much.

  2. Glen 'Famine' Swan

    Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

    I've cultivated many brand evangelist over the years within the video game industry for the communities I've managed. Any time, money or resources you can sink into establishing or supporting those hardcore fans (as we called them) is worth the return. There is nothing greater than building a strong relationship with someone who absolutely loves what you do and wants to share with others why you rock so much.

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