Recent algorithmic updates by Google have uncovered exciting new SEO opportunities for brands. One of these opportunities is using brand advocacy as leverage to build a better content and link building portfolio to rank higher in SERPs—an important move when executing a local SEO strategy for hotels and restaurants. This relationship is characterized by transparency, mutual loyalty, passion, and a true emotional stake in the client’s and brand’s welfare.

Advocacy is a powerful word. An advocate is someone who speaks positively about your brand and can be a loyal referrer for your business. Advocates are proactive in their support, and spread positive word-of-mouth (WOM) promotion about the brand to other people. These instances and groups of customers are critical factors to leveraging fans as online advocates.

Brand advocates can provide references that build natural links in many ways: speaking out about your services on in social space, participating in a video testimonial, authoring case studies, online reviews, and participating in newsletters. Learning to use these to help promote your business online is valuable for reputation management and new client acquisition.

One benefit that comes from brand advocates is they tell positive stories, which makes an effective strategy for niche-related strategies, such as SEO for franchise businesses or dentists. Personalized experiences of your company’s service and value. Brand advocates are your marketers online. Your advocates are powerful extensions of your marketing and can create links and content for you – the key to rankings.

How do you turn your customers, fans and likes into advocates?

You cannot buy or demand true advocates, but you can encourage and cultivate participation that benefits you in the SERPs and in your brand’s online reputation. If you learn to create documented positive brand experiences online, they can become powerful marketing and sales assets.

Steps to leverage advocates to create quality links and accelerate growth:

  • Have your brand advocates participate in a traditional or video case study.
  • Co-author a white paper with a long term client, listen and show implemented process change.
  • Have customers guest speak for you at local events or summits to promote their experience.
  • Engage happy customers in social media and reference these conversations as examples.
  • Use customers as references in LinkedIn and offline references to secure new client acquisition.

Brand advocates improve the way potential clients think about your business and alert you to competitive threats and market opportunities that are are difficult to realize with traditional SEO. As an example, See how advocates helped regain Starbucks it’s lost brand soul.

A recent Zuberance survey “Three Surprising Findings About Brand Advocates” shows that the primary reason for customers recommending a brand is a positive experience. Incentives like free products, discounts and even cash don’t typically motivate customers to become advocates.

Source: Zuberance, Brand Advocate Research, January 2012.

How To Nurture Brand Advocates

In the age of connected consumerism, where people trust each others, and have the tools to communicate with each others, trust has shifted to the participants as a result of it. Nothing is more important for a brand than engaging advocates to build content and drive sales through word of mouth promotion.

We have talked about the importance of brand advocacy, now here are some steps you can take to harness brand advocacy:

First Identify Your Most Passionate Advocates

Create your own Social Media HQ for spotting advocates. Some of the characteristics of your brand advocates are; regularly commenting on your blog, resharing your facebook posts, retweeting your tweets, and speaking on public forums on behalf of you.

Create A Loyalty Program

Once you identify your most passionate brand advocates, you want to reward them, and engage them. Some of the best ways to reward them are; create leaderboards on your website and recognize them as the leaders, be sure to share it on your Facebook as well, create content that deeply resonates with them and always send them a shout out about it, send them swags, and give them early previews of your product.

Take example of Marketo Champion program for more tips on rewarding your advocates.

Participate With Your Advocates

Learn about your brand advocates background and knowledge of their industry, identify any special needs that they may have, and address it. By participating with them, you are building a notion of involvement in their problems, frustration, and help cultivate a two way dialogue with your brand advocates.

Give Them Access To Important Information

Select your very few passionate and important advocates and provide them access to important information about your company, your services, or your new product launch. Paul Dunay of Networked Insights was quoted in a video saying,  “It’s counter intuitive to not give them special access to information. It’s important to foster that special relationship.”

Your advocate army is ready. Are you?

Fans demonstrate their emotional connection to your brand, and can become powerful tools for your marketing. This passion adds authenticity to that connection—a customer’s recommendation is the best compliment your customer can ever give your brand. When a potential customer gets a trusted recommendation, it sticks.

My advice is to use this powerful asset as leverage.  Brand advocates can be turned into a viral online referral machine, and can accelerate profitable revenue growth. They are your best SEO tools for building links, creating content and driving traffic.

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