One goal most companies have while growing their social media presence is to empower “brand evangelists,” who freely sing the praises of the company’s products & services.

Thinking outside the box (as usual), Mack Collier asks a valid question: if your brand wants an evangelist, why not hire a customer?

Mack’s example cites the case of Bruce’s Yams, whose Twitter presence is powered by yam-loving Amber (aka MissDestructo), a fan of their product who pitched them on the opportunity to preach their virtues online.  Wisely, Bruce’s Yams said yes.

Who wouldn’t want to see that kind of passion put to good use?

But Bruce’s Yams isn’t the only company with fiercely loyal fans.  Odds are, your brand has its fair share of passionistas too.  And when you thank them for their patronage and invite them further into your company’s culture, you enable them to share in your company’s success.

5 Ways to Reward Your Customers as Brand Evangelists

  • Share links to the people who talk about you. Not to what they said, mind you; to what they’re doing.  Show that you care about your customers’ lives beyond the traditional customer-provider relationship, and you’ll help foster a relationship that personalizes both of you.
  • Free samples — early, often, repeatedly and unannounced. Notice that someone said something positive about you online?  Instead of thanking them publicly, send them a thank-you note, a coupon code or a free sample, and an invitation to beta test your next product or app.
  • Donate to the charity of their choice. Everyone has a pet cause, and if you added up all the causes your own customers care about, you’d likely find a few overlapping concerns: health, education, the environment, etc.  Invite your customers to pitch you on the charities they’re passionate about, and donate funds or resources to the ones you can’t stop thinking about either.
  • Send “thank you” notes instead of “cease and desist” orders. Don’t get us wrong; copyrights and trademarks are certainly worth defending.  But there’s a difference between detractors who use your logo, mascot or other intellectual property to disparage your brand and the people who use those same assets to celebrate their love of what you do.  Make sure your PR and legal team can tell the difference.  Encouraging your fans to share (or even mash-up) your brand’s identity can create public goodwill, as well as new touchpoints for future customer awareness and interaction.
  • Leak important information to your “valued insiders.” Your biggest fans will trumpet your latest achievements far more loudly than any impartial news organization would — and they’ll help you build advance buzz in the process, all for the privilege of being granted a peek behind the corporate curtain.

Yes, “official” promotional plans will always have their place.  But in these days of “peer reviews” and word of mouth marketing, your brand needs to do whatever it can to help your customers help you help them.