Building & Leveraging Community: Arming Evangelists

In another recent post on building and leveraging communities for your small business, we discussed a few different ways to build communities around your brands.

The goal is, as always, not only to find conversions but also to build evangelists for your brand. Today, I’ll discuss the benefits of evangelists and how to give them what they need to continue being your brand evangelists on their own—with less and less input from you, the business!

I’m going to concentrate on how you can turn the community you’re building into evangelists. How do we groom this community? And how do we arm them with information to help them build upon the passion they have for your brand?

Step 1: Locate Your Evangelists

The first thing any business needs to do in an effort to connect with their audience, and turn them into brand evangelists, is to locate those potential evangelists. There are many people who are fans and believers in brands, and it’s necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff in order to make the most effective use of your brand-believers.

Building an army of evangelists is hard work. lays out some key steps for any business that is looking to turn regular fans into evangelists.  Early on, they highlight something I mentioned in my previous post: “One of the fastest ways to find your brand evangelists is to start marking the mentions of your brand with sentiment.”

There are two key points when it comes to finding your potential evangelists.  First, find people who know what they are talking about.  And second, find people who are active participants in social media but don’t control the conversation.  Just as your brand conversations shouldn’t be one-sided, neither should the conversations of your evangelists.

Step 2: Share

Being social is key to building a community.  And indeed the article I referenced earlier from details the need to give your potential evangelists a little love and attention. Of course, in 2012, the easiest and most convenient way to do that is by reaching out, sharing, and interacting via social media.

Flavio Martins, a contributor for writes about using social media to connect with your audience to develop that audience into evangelists.  He notes seven bullet points—all of which are key to converting fans to evangelists—and indeed they’re all very important.

Enable Conversations with Your Audience Via Social Media

Frequent contact, sharing interesting content, and training people on what to say and how to say it are incredibly imperative first steps in building evangelists.  You can combine these steps with the factors you’re looking for when you’re trying to locate your potential evangelists. When you’re engaging in frequent contact and sharing interesting content, you’re helping to find the people who truly know what they’re talking about.

You’re enabling a conversation with your audience that gives them the opportunity to get noticed as someone who can help carry the flag for your brand.

A Key to Sharing: Share Something Exclusive

On top of sharing content—and helping people learn how to express the message of your brand—it’s important that in your contact with your future evangelists, you’re sharing something exclusive.  Aside from being exclusive to create the impression of exclusivity within your brand, sharing special content helps your users develop a closer relationship with you and your brand. Martins mentions two offers of exclusivity: giving away secrets and offering exclusive offers, promotions, and events through social media.

These two tips pair well with 6 rules for creating evangelists on social media, offered by by

Think about how identifying your potential evangelists can pair with the things you’re able to share.  You will definitely encourage conversion from fan to evangelist!

Step 3: Enabling Evangelism

The third step—once you’ve identified and armed your evangelist—is to enable them.

Beyond giving them the information that makes them want to be an evangelist, enabling their desire to carry the flag for your brand is more about giving them purpose and ability to be your evangelist.

Take Advantage of New Marketing Technology

Rewarding loyalty has long been a tactic of businesses in many industries to keep customers and encourage future business. One point I really like comes from Indian business blog,, where they mention that while loyalty cards and programs have been around for a long time, to stay ahead of the curve businesses must advance technologically in their loyalty rewards.  The author pinpoints a recently revealed marketing practice of retailer Target, which uses algorithms to guess when a woman is pregnant based on her shopping trends.  While many consider this to be an invasion of privacy, they correctly note that “fine-tuned” versions of programs like these really have the potential for success.

Offer Rewards and Motivators

What I like even more is this infographic from, a creator of a customer engagement platform. The site mentions check-ins, user-generated competition, and crowd sourcing.  These three things are immediate extensions of brand loyalty rewards, and they are motivators and enablers for evangelism.

Check-ins allow people to share their visit to your location, or their use of your products. User-generated competition gives users a reason to share their thoughts on your brand, and it also does a lot of the legwork for promoting your brand to their networks.

Crowd sourcing gives you and your brand an opportunity to work directly with your consumers in an effort to learn about your company and how consumers view it.  At the same time, as it allows you to put their ideas in motion, it rewards them for their loyalty and gives them reason to promote your brand—you worked directly with them to make changes!

A final example of enabling evangelism comes from a social-sourced review site, Yelp allows users to check-in, and review, any kind of business they may visit or patronize. Every year, yelp awards “elite badges” to their elite users. Yelp doesn’t announce how they choose their elites every year, but wide speculation is that users who contribute the most—the ones who are the most social and otherwise influential—are the ones chosen as elite. Full disclosure: yours truly is a Yelp elite for 5 years running.

The way that Yelp builds brand evangelism is by offering monthly “Elite Events” which feature food and drink by local businesses at a local establishment.  The events are generally held for the benefit of a charitable organization, but the food, drink, and social nature are the big way that Yelp enables their users to really become evangelists. Give your evangelists a reason to sing your virtues—and give them a way to do it—and they will.

Building brand evangelists isn’t easy, and don’t expect it to happen overnight. It takes hard work, a lot of passion, and truly starts within your own business. Once your employees become brand evangelists, everyone can get on the same page to start identifying external evangelists.  Give your brand-believers the proper tools, and enable them to really do work for your brand, and they will.

What’s next?  I will take a look at a few companies who were successful in building brand evangelists, and you will see how they reap the benefits of having a large community of people who believe in their brand!

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Jason is a 30-something that lives in Denver, CO. He has very red hair, loves the outdoors, and all things homebrew. He has a social media addiction, and can be found at

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