Three Steps To Building Brand Advocates


I’m speaking at Dairy Strong conference tomorrow in Madison, WI on a panel about Dairy’s Online Image.

My co-panelists are the dairy farmer extraordinaire Dairy Carrie and Ketchum Public Relations partner Linda Eatherton.

We’ve actually done this same talk before at IDFA’s conference last year about this same time. Linda talks about how consumers’ minds have changed about food and what they are looking for. It’s a great talk about Food 2020 and how Food e-Vangelists exist and how to interact with them.

Carrie gives her insightful and humor-filled talk on how to become an advocate for farming and food. She’s a powerful communicator and has built up a substantial online following for her blog and social media channels.

My talk focuses on how companies build advocacy. Last year I concentrated on building advocates within your company but this year I’ve changed it to the basic steps of building brand advocates.

In my talk “Building Brand Advocates: Three Steps To Building Relationships and Loyalty,” there are just three steps to any advocacy program.

Three Steps To Building Brand Advocacy from Don Schindler


The problem I see with the many companies I chat with is that they look out in the wild for their brand advocates when, in fact, they usually already have them collected.

It’s in the email marketing system. If someone has signed up for your email newsletter, then you can pretty much guarantee they are interested in what you are doing.

If you want them to be a part of advocacy for your brand, all you have to do is ask or better yet incentivize them to share your messages. They are probably already doing it but you just don’t know about it.

The second place to go to find advocates is your own company and the industry overall. Most people are happy to be a part of the messaging if they love their job. And the good thing with the dairy industry, is that I find most people really, really love their jobs. It’s rewarding and the product is something most people love. Like cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese?

The third place I look is the internet. With social media, blogging and forums you can find many advocates on the web. Now collecting their information isn’t the easiest thing to do but if you take the time, build the relationship and then invite them into a rewarding advocacy program, you’d be surprised how willing most people are to share their love for your product.

There are several tools that allow you to do this like Sysomos Heartbeat, Visible, Salesforce Radian 6, Simply Measured or if you can’t pay there are tools like or Hootsuite.

Once you have all of your advocates you need to keep track of them and you shouldn’t really be doing this by hand with things like Excel or Google Spreadsheets. I would recommend using CRM products like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics CRM. If your budget is a little lower there are lots of other tools that are priced lower like Zoho.


If an advocate loves your product, then they want more information about it as well as want to feel like they are part of the culture that loves the product. Getting them insider information is a great way to start off the relationship. You are trusting them with cool insights on what you are doing.

This is how you can start building a relationship of trust and loyalty. Be authentic and transparent as much as you can and if you aren’t for sure about what they want to know about, just ask them. They are part of the program and they won’t hold back.


Now here’s where it gets to be real fun for both you and your advocates. The main thing you need to remember here is that THIS RELATIONSHIP ISN’T ABOUT YOU and your products. Don’t just throw things at them like advertisements or coupons.

You need to treat them as special as possible. Give them coupons that they can give to their friends. This increases their social capital. Give them rewards when they talk – it doesn’t always have to be product. The brand giving them a shout out or acknowledging something cool they’ve done online about your brand.

You should try and gameify the program as well so they can see the other advocates and maybe even pit them against each other or the brand’s social profile. It’s fun to get points and likes and it holds them accountable to the advocacy program.

Make sure you are celebrating them over your products. Many brands are using user-generated content like photos, videos or stories that advocates produce as their commercials. Look at the Doritos or Lays. Great stuff. Taco Bell goes out of its way to follow only a select few superfans and to get on that list you need to be extraordinary Taco Bell lover.

Taking these steps will also help you generate new brand advocates because they will engage with them and they could potentially ask others to be a part of the program.


If you are just starting out, I recommend using your email marketing tied to your social media platforms. It’s simple enough to do.

  1. Use your current email marketing list and ask the current subscribers to sign up for the advocacy program (explain the benefits).
  2. Create a advocacy group on a platform like Facebook (make sure it’s closed) and send it to those who signed up via email.
  3. Use both email marketing and the group to get the word out.
  4. Track everything via websites and social listening tools.

If you want to take your advocacy program to the next level, I recommend partnering with an advocacy program company like Dynamic Signal, Social Chorus, Social Toaster or BzzAgent. There are also several companies that just focus on employees like Addvocate or Everybody’s Social.

Pretty simple, huh?

When it comes to the dairy industry, we have an advocacy program that gives you insider information about the happenings with the industry, that gives you an opportunity to be part of future dairy campaigns and that teach you how to be a better dairy advocate both online and off.

If you would like to join our program, just visit and sign up. We’ll be in touch.

So when it comes to advocacy programs, do you think these three steps are the basics of what you need? What do you think I missed?


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