Humans are social creatures, and as such, we are far more likely to read books, watch movies or visit restaurants recommended by someone close to us than we are to stumble across them on our own. Some people go so far as to seek out the opinions of their friends before making even a simple buying decision. That’s why a glowing review of your product or service from a customer to one of their friends can be more effective than any marketing campaign—or serves as a great complement to one. But how do you turn lukewarm customers into raving fans, who will sing the praises of your business offerings to anyone within earshot? Here are some key strategies that can turn your customers into advocates, both in person and online.

Let your personality shine

“To get people to like you on Facebook, they have to actually like you, and I think that’s something that’s often overlooked by brands,” says Laura Roeder, founder of LKR Social Media, a series of online training courses that teach small business owners how to set up and leverage social media marketing. “There’s no way to trick someone into becoming a customer advocate. They have to genuinely love your business and love your brand, and in order for that to happen they have to feel like they have a relationship with you,“ she adds.

That involves being more personal and sometimes more vulnerable than a lot of businesses want to be. After all, “you can’t have a personality that someone can connect with if you don’t have any personality at all,” Roeder points out. Anything that you’d feel comfortable discussing with a casual acquaintance is okay fodder for sharing in your communication, and readers may relate to you more when you post pictures, for example, or share small details from your life.

Addressing (or ignoring) negative comments

Getting criticism online is an unfortunate reality of putting yourself out there, but it’s important not to get caught up in random people who aren’t customers complaining about your posts or your business. “When you do turn your customers into advocates, they do a lot of that work for you. You’ll find that you often don’t have to go in and address certain concerns because your customers will pop up before you even get a chance to and say, ‘That’s not right’ or ‘That’s not accurate,’” Roeder says.

However, customers are also looking to see whether you react positively to online haters or lose your cool. Roeder always advises small business owners not to engage. “If it’s comments on your blog and your Facebook page, you are welcome to delete them. There is no law saying you have to keep them up, and if it’s just people being negative and making the space not fun for anyone else, there’s no reason you need to keep it there.” Use your best judgment in these cases because some folks frown upon deleting comments, etc. and it can back fire on you.

On the other hand, it can be a good idea to publicly address legitimate concerns.

​“If it’s a more valid criticism that doesn’t feel like someone just being hateful, then you probably do want to answer it, and that adds cred to your business. But that’s a different beast than what happens on the Internet with people just criticizing you for no reason at all,” says Roeder.

Although she has many customer advocates, Roeder never directs her fans to negative posts written about her. “I have seen things written about me on other blogs and I have seen…comments defending me, but I would never add fuel to the fire by linking to the post and saying, ‘Go over there and tell them that they’re wrong and what you think.’”

Ask for shares, but avoid gimmicky campaigns

Leverage people’s excitement for your product and content by asking them to help spread the word on social media. “Asking people to share something on Facebook or asking them to retweet is something you don’t want to abuse,” Roeder says; so don’t include requests on every single piece of content you put out there. Save it for the important ones.

You’ll want to steer clear of gimmicky tactics, though. “A lot of people will have campaigns where you have to email five friends for a gift,” she describes. “I try to avoid stuff like that.”

​Trying to pressure people into emailing five friends to get a gift doesn’t create a great user experience. “ Sometimes they’ll even do things like make up fake email addresses, or they will email their friends but with the caveat that ‘I had to do this thing because I wanted a free gift, and you can get a free gift, too,’” Roeder explains. “It doesn’t come across as very genuine. Instead of trying to think of a little trick to get people to share, make something great and make it easy to share with social media buttons; make it easy for people to post on Facebook, post on Twitter and Pin on Pinterest.” Having great content is far more important than gimmicks or tricks.

Explain why you’re excited

Instead of just asking for shares, make sure to let people know why you’re so excited about what you’re asking them to share or retweet, whether it’s a new program or a blog post you think solves people’s biggest problems. Letting people know that a new blog post is one of the best you’ve written, and will really help people with a legitimate problem they are struggling with is surprisingly effective.

​“Be genuine and say, ‘I really think this is a great post and I think people really need it. If you agree, and if you find it useful, please use the Facebook share function and share it on your timeline and share it on your page,’” Roeder recommends. “People appreciate a genuine ask, and people will share things they find useful.”

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at

© 2013 – 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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