6 Tools for Identifying and Rewarding Brand Advocates

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The days when word-of-mouth advertising took place in person or over the phone are nearly extinct. More than 65% of adults now use social networking sites, and 60% of users under 30 say they check their accounts on a daily basis. Facebook users tend to be an especially active bunch, with users sharing their opinions and recommendations with an average of 130 well-connected friends.

When people talk about their favorite brands on social networking sites, they build buzz and increase awareness in an organic way. These unpaid “brand advocates” are likely to have serious influence over their friends, since their opinions are viewed as more “trustworthy” than the messages coming from traditional advertising platforms.

Local marketers can’t force customers to talk about their brands online, but they can provide incentives to encourage this type of social sharing. Here are six platforms that businesses can use to identify and reward customers for talking about their products and services on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.

1. Zuberance
Zuberance is a tool for businesses to identify customers talking about them online, encourage those customers to continue posting positive content — and ultimately track the sales, clicks, leads, and impressions that result from these marketing efforts. Businesses can encourage so-called “brand advocates” to post about their products by providing those advocates with tools that make it easy to publish reviews on social networks (like Facebook), third party shopping sites (like Amazon), and third party review sites (like Yelp). Zuberance offers the option of a monthly service fee, performance-based pricing, or a combination of both models.

2. Social Rewards
Restaurants, hotels, airlines, theaters, and e-commerce retailers can all use Social Rewards to encourage their existing loyalty program members to post about their businesses on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Businesses publish special deals that their loyalty program members will be encouraged to pass on to friends, and then watch as those deals get re-tweeted and shared. Social Rewards tracks all online mentions of a business’ deal, and rewards customers with points for re-tweets and social mentions that lead to actual sales. Businesses pay Social Rewards 10 cents for each social mention generated by their campaigns.

SNAP is a social rewards program for businesses to reward customers who mention their brands on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Although SNAP is built to integrate with a company’s existing loyalty program, the platform’s real service to merchants is its ability to post automated messages on customers’ social networking accounts each time they shop or eat at participating businesses. Customers earn bonus points for allowing SNAP to post these “social shares,” which they can redeem for products and prizes. SNAP offers a variable pricing structure based on the level of integration, type of business, and number of locations.

4. Extole
Businesses looking to bring their word of mouth marketing efforts online might consider Extole to create an end-to-end social referral program that relies heavily on Facebook’s Open Graph. SMBs can create special offers that encourage customers to share their experiences on sites like Facebook and Twitter—like giving $5-off to anyone who refers a friend through a social networking post. Meanwhile, the platform also provides businesses with “expression buttons” that they can post on their own websites to prompt customers to share their favorite products with friends on Facebook. Extole typically charges merchants a subscription fee based on the volume of business being driven through its platform.

5. UrbanPiper
Small business owners who are interested in creating their own social media rewards programs can check out UrbanPiper. The platform provides SMBs with tools to reward loyalty program customers for engaging in certain activities online, like checking-in, ‘liking’ a company’s Facebook page, sharing pictures, and recommending a business to a friend. Businesses handle the redemption of any rewards they offer, and they can use UrbanPiper’s analytics tools to locate their biggest fans and most loyal customers. UrbanPiper is currently in “pre-launch beta mode.” Upon launch, the platform plans to offer a monthly subscription plan that scales based on the number of customers that sign up for an SMBs loyalty program.

6. Social Grower
Businesses that haven’t given up on the idea of using traditional plastic loyalty cards have the option of using Social Grower to give their rewards programs a modern update. The company’s social rewards cards — which look and feel like typical loyalty cards — automatically link to customers’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, making it possible for businesses to post messages (with permission) to their customers’ social networking pages each time their cards are swiped. Social Grower’s social rewards cards can also generate automated check-ins on Foursquare. Social Grower offers four basic pricing packages that range from $772 to $3,096 per month.

Know of other social rewards programs for businesses? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.