How to recruit social media advocates for your business

Word Gets AroundThe bigger a business is the more admirers they’ll naturally have. Even the smallest business is going to have some genuine admirers, if only friends and family.

In social media this admiration translates into what are commonly called “advocates”, people who talk online about the business they admire. They might be customers, they might be employees, they might be unrelated folks who simply have an interest in the subject matter—they might just plain like what you do. For you the key is that they talk about you because they want to.

Advocates can help you in a number of ways, including spreading the word about what you are doing and giving you a source of feedback about your brand.

Advocates versus Influencers

Advocates shouldn’t be confused with “influencers”, people with larger-than-average social media followings who may or may not be advocates. But although influencers may also become advocates, a group of mere mortal advocates who stick with you is probably worth more to you in the long run than a celebrity influencer who pay attention to you briefly then moves on to other interests.

In a future post I’ll take a peak at ways to find the advocates you already have. This post is about recruiting advocates who haven’t discovered you yet. If you have a large following in social media already you should start by identifying and nurturing your existing advocates, but if you’re launching a new brand presence in social media then this post should help you prime the pump.

Tools for Identifying Potential Social Media Advocates

I’ve been keeping a a list of web applications that can be used to search for potential advocates. When using any of the following please remember that the process can be a bit elliptical–it’s not an exact science. And I haven’t finished comparing them to one another yet, so I can’t tell you which might be “best”, but I suspect they all have their moments. I recently had conversations with two different startups who want to start recruiting advocates, and both are coincidentally related to “personal finance”, thus I’ve provided searches featuring that phrase to illustrate how these tools work—but you can substitute your own terms:

Topsy: http://topsy.com/s/personal+finance?window=m
Twitter Grader: http://tweet.grader.com/go/search/results?Keyword=personal-finance
Twellow: http://www.twellow.com/search/?q=personal+finance
WeFollow: http://wefollow.com/twitter/personalfinance
Listorious: http://listorious.com/search/people?q=personal+finance&search=Search
TweetLevel: http://tweetlevel.edelman.com/TagCharts.aspx?topic=personal-finance
BlogLevel: http://bloglevel.edelman.com/TopicSearch.aspx?topic=personal-finance

How to engage with potential social media advocates

Once you identify potential advocates, ask them out on a date. Just kidding…but only a little. Show them some virtual “love” by following them and retweeting/sharing and LIking their posts when appropriate. If you can, offer original, meaningful comments to their posts in a respectful fashion, with the goal of adding value for their readers (not for yourself). This kind of virtual recognition is the currency by which you will earn a closer look from potential advocates. Also, if you have a freebie to offer them that’s relevant to them and actually valuable (someone offered me a free screen wipe recently…um, how can I say “not flattered” without sounding stuffy?), go for it.

Remember that Twitter users often list their blogs in their profiles, and vice versa. So if you find them in one medium you may have also found them in the other.

Using Klout and PeerIndex to find social media advocates

Klout and PeerIndex can also be used to find advocates, but don’t really offer search by keyword, just “browse by topic”, so you just have to blunder into your specific topic somehow (the “browse” capability is amazingly bad—somebody please correct me if there’s a good way to do this). Then on PeerIndex you have to keep refreshing the results (!) to get to the “top” influencers. For example:

http://klout.com/#/topic/personal-finance
http://www.peerindex.com/topic/personal-finance

See http://socialmediatoday.com/ginidietrich/296495/peer-index-vs-klout for a description of a method to find a specific topic on either of these sites despite the lack of search. In essence, if you can pull up a specific person on Klout or PeerIndex who is talking about a topic that interests you, you can click on the topic when it pops up in their profile to find otther people talking about that topic.

Klout and PeerIndex both have complex algorithms which are meant to better measure influence, but as far as I can tell that complexity delivers higher accuracy in much the same way as the math behind mortgage-backed derivatives facilitated better lending practices.

To be honest I have a number of reservations about Klout. Among them are: the fact that they claim more ability to rate influence than they actually deliver makes me suspicious; they bombard users with too much “spammy” messaging; they’ve gamified their system so that their results are skewed by who is “winning the Klout game” rather than by who is really generating influential social engagement; and you have to create an account to access it (not required by others I’ve listed except for PeerIndex). However, they are currently the biggest game in town, so I still have an account with them. Call me a hypocrite if you will!

Please let me know what you think about the relative merits of these services and any other you are aware of.

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