Social Networking Insiders Build Your Brand for Free

blog-referral.jpgWeb 2.0 has transformed word-of-mouth marketing; advocates can now share their opinions and experiences through blogs and other online forums, including fan, rating, and social networking sites. (This means you need to monitor your online reputation closely to avoid viral attacks from disgruntled customers.) So how can you take a proactive role in building a buzz about your brand -- other than paying community evangelists to sing your company's praises?

Dan Greenfield, blogger for Bernaise Source, offers some insight into tapping volunteer customer advocates:

On the marketing side, organizations like the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and companies like BzzAgent have emerged to help businesses find these pitchmen and pitchwomen. These volunteers are tapped to promote new products through their network of family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. They are upfront about their affiliation, honest about their opinions and devoted to their products. Companies get loyal customers and genuine advocates, and customers get a sense of accomplishment.

The same spirit that drives individuals to spread the word also motivates others to contribute to company sponsored social networks.

Lithium for example builds and manages customer support forums for some very large companies like AT&T and Dell. Through experience, they have developed a set of profiles or personas that show how a new community member becomes a regular, established contributor. A successful community needs a large numbers of contributors at different levels to be self-sustaining.

Who's in your corner?

(Blog Referral image by Esparta)