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5 Ways to Make Customers Ambassadors Without a Referral Program

Why pay customers to talk about you when they will do it for free?

Referral programs have their place, but most of the time your users don't need any rewards to share content or talk about your company and products online.

I recently talked to Clément Delangue from mention about easy ways startups can get media coverage. Mention is a service that monitors the Web and especially social networks for over 150,000 companies and has detected over 1 billion daily mentions of those companies (here's an infographic with their analysis of that data).

This time, I asked him for simple ways small businesses can get their customers to talk about them online.

Here are Clément's tips:

1. Monitor who's talking about you, then get in touch.

This is definitely the easiest step that can be taken. No matter how small your business, you can always find people talking about it. By using mention or other tools, you can easily find existing conversations and start talking to these users by replying on Twitter, Facebook, or on blogs.

Your comments foster more interaction, more brand awareness, and more committed users who know you're there to help. Do it right, and someone that might have just mentioned you once could turn into someone who will consistently mention and recommend you and your product.

2. Give your users one opportunity a week to talk about you.

Sure, new users may talk about how cool your product is. But after a while, they might not mention you much, or they may view your product or service in a very narrow way if you don't give them new topics to discuss. Maybe it's a new feature announcement or a new milestone or even just an opinion you would like to share on a subject.

If you want to develop a strong brand voice, first you actually have to use that voice. Speak up and share. Your users are listening. Regularly give them something interesting to talk about.

3. Make your support social.

More and more users ask support questions on social networks rather than traditional channels such as phone or email. By answering most of your user questions on social networks you can dramatically increase your online presence and build a solid base of support.

Some companies, such as Buffer, understand this perfectly, asking their users to primarily use Twitter to ask support questions.

And why not? It's fast, free, public, and also turns customers with questions into supporters and followers of your service.

4. Go the extra mile.

It's a common saying that, "Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well." Going the extra mile not only delights your users, it gives them something positive to share about your brand.

Simply answering a tweet in less than an hour--and not just tweets directed to you but tweets about you--can make people tweet about your level of service and your product. Speed, relevancy, and charm can sometimes make the difference between a product with decent word of mouth and an awesome viral product.

So don't hesitate to go the extra mile. Not only will the person you help appreciate the effort, so will everyone else who finds out. Trust me--they will.

5. Take stances.

Focusing on a few specific areas in your industry and taking clear stances on relevant topics helps you stand out from the crowd and get people talking about you. For example, if you've decided to focus on content marketing, that's where you should dedicate most of your resources to set yourself apart.

Kissmetrics, with their infographics, webinars, and in-depth articles, are a great example: in time they've become an authority on their subject that people reach out to... and trust.

Take a position and then back up that position with thoughtful content. People will notice--and they will share.

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Last updated: Mar 21, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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