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Build Brand Evangelists – Not Links

Insights August 16, 2013

Good afternoon Sir or Madam! If you have a minute, I’d love to talk to you about brand evangelism, the one true form of marketing!


Those guys are annoying, right?  With their Dwight Schrute-inspired short sleeved white dress shirts and gelled comb-overs; and what’s in those backpacks (and why are they strapped so tightly)?  However, maybe there’s a thing or two that us Internet marketers can learn from these persistent, front-porch-invading-cause-advocates.

The concept of brand evangelism is said to have been invented by Guy Kawasaki of Apple (and perhaps not coincidentally, I can’t think of a brand with a stronger, larger army of evangelists than Apple).  The term refers to the phenomenon of loyal consumers taking it upon themselves to spread the word of a brand, for no personal gain of their own.  Have you ever listened to a friend rant and complain about the frustrations of their glitchy, unreliable cell phone before sighing heavily and inquiring, “Dude, why don’t you just get an iPhone already?”  If so, you have taken a step down the steep, slippery slope of brand evangelism.  If you’re not careful, you may soon find yourself throwing haymakers at anyone you see carrying an Android.

The concept of brand evangelism is one that aligns itself closely with the world of search engine optimization.  After all, what is a link to Google if not a personal endorsement of one site by another?  As SEO’s, we act online as personal brand evangelists for the companies that we represent.  We recommend their products to bloggers, we cite their information and vouch for its value and accuracy, we share their content and proclaim how it could change your life, all while driving links to improve rankings.  If we succeed in landing a big link on a “Great White” site, thereby driving value to our client’s site… Mission Accomplished!  Right?

Or is there more?

Should we be satisfied with a link-to-outreach ratio of 1:1?  Or could we make that 10:1? 100:1?

A brand relationship shouldn’t end with a link any more than a romantic relationship should end with a wedding.  The first link is just the beginning!  As SEO’s, we should be asking ourselves not how to convert a relationship into a link, but how to convert a relationship into a new brand evangelist!  An online influencer whose endorsement of your brand will result in five links, ten links, a hundred!

Gone are the days of quietly slipping a link into a guest post and calling it a day.  We need to think bigger, we need to shout our brands from the rooftops and get every relevant online community to do the same!  We need to take our shirts off and dance wildly in a field! Okay, that last one might have been a little out of context.  Watch the quick video below for funny and informative context!

The video above can teach us a few things about being leaders in an online community. The first lesson is this:  you can’t be a leader without at least one follower. “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.” Without someone to follow you, you’re just an awkward naked guy (admittedly with some pretty incredible dance moves) being laughed at in a field.  But if you can attract just one follower with a little bit of influence, you can start a movement, and movements create brand evangelists.

If you create a relationship with that first follower, and give him something special enough to work with, he may just be compelled to call in his friends.  Every individual, and by extension every brand has the capacity to create incredible content and form meaningful relationships.  Those are the only two ingredients necessary to start a movement, and thereby amass an army of brand evangelists.

As SEO’s, we need to be able to identify who that first influential follower might be, what kind of content will resonate with them, and how to get them to call in their friends to join the party.

Okay, that’s all well and good, but it’s easier said than done, right?  Well, yes.  No one said this would be easy.  So the question is:  how do you turn your brand into a movement?

How do you turn your relationships into new brand evangelists?

Prepare to be disappointed.  There’s no secret formula. Or if there is no one has shared it with me.  But there are some things that you can do to leverage the relationships you create in the most effective way possible.

1.     First and foremost, you need to have a great product, service, or business model.  People don’t get passionate about the ordinary.  People get passionate about the unique, about life changing, about can’t-be-ignored kinds of brands.

2.     Create great content.  No, wait.  Create incredible content.  Create content that’s so good, so unique, informative, entertaining, heartwarming and hysterical that your targeted community won’t be able to NOT share it.

3.     Be a two-way communication platform.  Don’t let your brand become a one-way street of messaging, pushing your agenda and tuning out anything coming back.  Engage with your community, and they’ll be more likely to care about what you have to say.

4.     Make yourself more than just a brand. These days, brands have to be a lot more than just a stamped logo on a product.  Brands need to embody a lifestyle; they need to be a membership card into an important club.  If consumers truly feel that they are equal members of the community that your brand represents, they will be compelled to invite new members in.

5.     Empower your fans.  If you see a consumer of your brand advocating for you online, don’t ignore them – empower them!  Encourage user generated content on your site or social platforms, runs contests, do anything you can to incent evangelism on your behalf.  Sometimes all a silent fan needs in order to become a brand evangelist is that little nudge from the brand itself.

People are influenced far more effectively by their friends and family than they are by any ad or celebrity endorsement.  As marketers, we need to be able to leverage that influence and encourage the happy consumers of our products to become brand evangelists and share their satisfaction with the people in their own lives.  Just make sure they don’t start dressing up in white shirts and ties and going door to door preaching your brand… that can actually do more harm than good.

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