Moving from “like” to “love” to “defend”

The feelings of any community member toward your brand can range from resentment to adoration and beyond. People we want to concentrate on are those we hope to move along a spectrum from simply “liking” you all the way to being willing to defend you and your brand.

The first step is getting people to simply like you, whether on Facebook, by word of mouth, or however. The people who like you are consistently having their expectations met. This typically feels transactional with a low level of engagement, though there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Like any relationship, forming bonds that take you to the next level highly depends on the needs of both your brand and the individuals with whom you’re interacting. You want to form these bonds on positive experiences you have together that benefit both of you. (This is not to say that bonds can’t be formed through adversity, but having say a positive Twitter exchange around helping someone is better than one around how your product is malfunctioning.) Even better if these experiences bring delight and build your unique brand voice. For example, when Kotex started their Pinterest account, they selected 50 female users and sent them unique packages based on their Pinterest boards. Not only were these women surprised and happy, but all shared about what Kotex did on their social networks, creating a cascade of warm feelings.

There is another level where this relationship grows even deeper. When a customer becomes willing to defend your brand, you know you’ve really outdone yourself. This final “willingness to defend” stage is brand and social nirvana, as community members are not only engaging frequently and providing recommendations, but also standing up to advocate your work and defend you from brand detractors.

You can never expect your community to handle 100% of the customer service issues or questions that arise. They aren’t fully equipped, and it’s not their job. But you can expect, after your initial investment and cultivation, that some community members will begin to step up and help out when they can and where appropriate. (This is a good time to think about about how to recognize and even reward your most active participants.) When that happens, you begin to see how your efforts will start to scale as you continue to boost your community engagement efforts. It frees you up to work on other engagements, and as you might imagine, an advocate standing up for a brand is far more powerful than a brand standing up for itself. There’s a level of authenticity built into that sort of peer-to-peer interaction that can’t be found in brand-to-customer interactions.

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