Social Media is not just another channel to broadcast your brand's message, but where your brand can personally interact with fans. Content Manager, Hannah Tooker, explains how to activate fans and turn them into brand advocates.

  • Hannah Tooker
  • Content Manager

Turning Crazy Fans Into Brand Advocates

We all know those people, the ones who feel the need to talk about their favorite brands like they are some kind of religious figure. They have a huge Ford decal on the rear window of their lifted F-350. They can’t visit a Starbucks without snapping a picture of their cup and uploading to Instagram. When they post a pic of their homemade enchiladas, they take care to place their bottle of Cholula hot sauce next to the plate – while making sure the label is clearly visible. They’re crazy fans, and while they’re a little obnoxious in person, they can be your brand’s best friends.

Social media is not just another channel from which your brand can announce to the world how great it is. It provides brands the opportunity to directly interact with people. With those crazy fans, brands can step out of their comfort zone and actually engage with them, activating crazy fans to be brand advocates. Social media is a powerful and unique way for people (and brands) to connect with like-minded people around the world. By activating these people, you can increase your reach, conversation about your brand and overall brand sentiment.

Why does it matter?

According to Statista, there are more than 1.6 billion social network users worldwide, meaning that there are more than 1.6 billion untapped brand advocates waiting to talk about your restaurants, products, or services. Now, we know as marketers that organizing feedback from consumers is about as fun as wrangling kittens. However, if you can do it in a meaningful and more importantly sharable way, customer testimonial can be key to a great marketing strategy. But how do we activate our fans and display what they are saying? I am so glad you asked! There are a few key things that need to happen in order to develop a great UGC or User Generated Content strategy for your social channels.

1. Identify Passionate Fans

2. Outreach

3. Strategy for Using UGC

4. Take the Next Step

How do I find these people?

Pro Tip: THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. Whether you know it or not your brand has fans, and not just any fans, fanatical fans. Fans that want to scream your brand name from the rooftops and tell everyone they know about it. These are the people you want to activate; this is an entire group of people who are speaking highly of your brand for no other reason but the fact that they love it. These are bloggers, YouTube personalities, Instagrammers and even just everyday social media users that have the potential to be so much more. Identifying the people who love your brand is key to making a User Generated Content strategy that will not only help you showcase your product or service but also build an army of loyal people who will talk about it for you. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you know what to look for it will all come together quickly.

Let’s go exploring

One of the best ways to find the people who are speaking passionately about your brand is to comb your social media channels and use social listening. Using social listening tools such as Netbase, look for mentions and photos featuring your product or brand and research hashtags associated with your brand. You may be inundated at first with the sheer volume of people talking about your brand if you haven’t had a chance to look at your social channels or the conversation surrounding them. Fear not, there are tactics for sifting through the people talking about your brand in order to find the ones that you’d like to engage with.

The best way to weed through people easily is to come up with criteria for what you’d like to see in a UGC photo. Do you want the product to be front and center? Do you want people to be using the product? Do you care what the caption says or how many followers the person has on their channel? Once you have decided on criteria it is easier to identify the people you want to engage with.

Can I have yo’ photo?

After you have identified photos that you think would fall in line with your brand goals and the content you currently post on your social channels, it is time for the big ask. Asking people if you can use their photos is a simple task, but should be done in a way that makes them feel comfortable. You want to let them know why you like their work, ask permission to re-post it, and let them know you will give them credit when you use it on your own channels. Chances are, most fans will say yes!

If you are hoping to work with influencers or an advocate with a larger social following, you will want to setup a separate influencer strategy and be very selective about who you work with. Prices will vary for these people. Generally, you will be able to find great UGC that can be used as long as you acknowledge the owner (people love to get a shout out from their favorite brands).

Got the photos, now what?

Once you have collected the UGC from fans of your brand you can begin to put a plan in place to use them. You may want to feature them as a “fan spotlight” once a week; work them into your content calendars as general content; or post them and give people a shout out as you receive the photos.

We find that UGC photos garner much more engagement from fans because they identify with the person who took the photo. People want to relate to other people that are on the same level as them, so by empowering fans to be advocates of your brand you create a cycle of people who want to create awesome UGC content for you.

This is all great, but can’t I tell people how awesome my brand is?

Short answer: Yes. The long answer is, your fans and people who are interested in your brand don’t want to hear how awesome you think you are. They want to hear things from people just like them. Using your audience and people that love your brand is a great way to tell your brand story without the “salesy” approach that usually comes along with it. When a review of your product or service comes from a real person, the genuine nature of that review speaks volumes to potential consumers.

What next?

There comes a time in every brand’s life where they have to leave the nest and make the trek into the world of brand advocacy alone. Equipped with a strategy informed by social listening and executed using conversation with the people who love your brand, you can build a robust bank of advocates who will be willing to talk about your brand for years to come.


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