John McTigue believes the number of brand advocates you have is more useful than more-easily-accessible metrics like "How many hits?" or "How many likes?" for online marketing. Advocates are those folks who love your brand so much they evangelize it for you, provide detailed feedback, and are often the first to tell you when your latest project or message is drifting off the mark.

Their power is palpable: Meteor Solutions says 1% of a site's audience can generate as much as 20% of a site's traffic through the sharing of a link or content with others, McTigue reports at the Brand&Capture blog. 

You'll know your advocates by their detailed emails or frequent, enthusiastic tweets to or about you. Nurture that relationship, get to know them, solicit views and offer rewards to show them their special place in your company culture.

Here are a few of McTigue's suggestions on reaching out to advocates—mixed with a few comments of our own:

  • Respond with words of appreciation when advocates mention your brand or share your content. They're sure to like it if you retweet, too!
  • Share their own unique content on occasion.
  • Study the hashtags they use on Twitter: Is there a deeper community that you can reach?
  • Ask for ideas and suggestions to generate participation from customers and followers.
  • Frequent their social spaces, and try to continue the conversation elsewhere. When appropriate, take the talk to email, give them a call, or—if the relationship is becoming a product-improvement opportunity—invite them to your headquarters! They'll love the attention!

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