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5 Tips for Harnessing the Power of Your Customer Advocates

June 2012 By Angela Bandlow
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Social referral programs are end-to-end marketing programs that enable brands to reach out to highly engaged, loyal customers and turn them into "social advocates"—who, in turn, refer the brands and products or services they sell to their friends and social communities. If brands can properly harness the power of social referrals, they can tap into a new, high-value marketing channel.

Top five tips for harnessing the power of your customer advocates:

1. Make referring easy. Make it easy for customers to share your brand's products and/or services with their friends. Include relevant sharing options (email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.). PURLs, or personal URLs, are also a great sharing option, as they can be shared across any channel—blogs, instant messages and social networks.

2. Promote across channels. Driving awareness of the social referral program is critical to its success. Brands should leverage their owned assets, including corporate websites, email lists, as well as social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.—to promote the referral program to their customers and drive the highest participation rate.

3. Increase participation with incentives. Give your customer advocates a compelling reason to share with their friends. This could be an internal offer (free goods, discounts or loyalty points), gift cards or charitable donations. Make sure there is an incentive for their friends to make sharing more attractive and improve the probability of converting friends into new customers.

4. Make it personal. Providing a simple, personalized experience for referred friends ensures the highest level of trust, engagement and participation in a social referral program. Ensure that friend messages and landing pages are personalized, concise and have a clear call to action to drive optimal results.

5. Add recognition and gamification. Tap into human desires and behavior to compete, excel and be recognized for achievement. Add in leaderboards and scoring to your referral program to foster participation and additional sharing.

Brands have an enormous opportunity to foster their customer advocates to create an incredibly powerful marketing channel via social referral programs. Done correctly, social referral programs can amplify a brand's reach exponentially.

Angela Bandlow is vice president of marketing at San Francisco-based consumer-to-consumer social marketing platform provider Extole.

 

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