If you were to hire a marketing consultant tomorrow and he or she offered you the option of receiving 10,000 real likes or 10 brand evangelists by the end of the month, which would you pick?
Did you go with the 10,000 likes? Surely there's a tangible benefit to having that many people connected to a media channel for your organization.
Or perhaps you're too clever for this thought experiment, and you "know" the right answer is 10 brand evangelists. Obviously they are the holy-grail in marketing and 10 of them could beat out even 100,000 superficial clicks of a like button on Facebook. Right?
The correct answer, which I know can be frustrating, is that it all depends- the devil is in the details.
There's no set formula for the value of a like, a follow, a share or a retweet, or even a brand evangelist for that matter. It's understood that engagement is important for building brand awareness, but only a fraction of social activities per person results in website hits, store visits, sales and repeat customers. Thankfully with data, you can track how much return on investment you gain from 10,000 likes, which hinges on the legitimacy of the users, their intent, buying habits, brand preferences, friends in their network, engagement profiles etc. But were they enticed by something unrelated to the brand? Or were they genuinely wanting to open the door to future communication? (hint: if it's the latter, it's a much better recipe for success) An open door can lead to evangelization. How a like turns into a brand evangelist is a topic for another day, be rest assure though it a great thing to encourage.
Think of a brand evangelists as the end of a life cycle of social customers. Most of these stages can overlap, jump around and exist in many channels of communication, but for simplicity sake
Brand Awareness →Facebook Like →Brand Preference →Purchasing → Evangelizing With Peers → Brand Awareness
When people fall in love with a brand, they become the best sales people in the company. This doesn't happen overnight, but with some nurturing a strong bond can be forged between the company and the customers. The magic is that, when satisfied, they learn the offerings in and out and profess their affinity to friends and colleagues via word-of-mouth. This phenomenon is more effective for sales than any marketing campaign because it comes from a trusted source and is heart-felt. What better sales pitch than a friend leaning over and saying, "I had that problem too. I went with Company XYZ and I was really happy and here's why you should try them." Bear in mind that not everyone who is aware of what you have to offer will want it, and not everyone that wants it will purchase. Even from those that do buy, only a fraction will tell their friends and so on.
Luckily, there's a critical point and time where enough people evangelize your brand that the customer base can grow on its own, even without marketing encouragement (think Apple and how their customers and the media is obsessed with them). Until you get to that point and beyond, keep the momentum going and don't ever stop. Think for a moment about how your good or service provides such a benefit and experience that a customer would tell their friends. If you can answer that then you are well on your way.
Think about it again- if you were to hire a marketing consultant tomorrow and he or she offered you the option of receiving 10,000 real likes or 10 brand evangelists by the end of the month, which would you pick?