01/10/2012 12:34 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2012

The New PR: Secrets to Turning Fans Into Evangelists

Twelve years ago when I was first in business it was unclear whether blogs would even make a dent in news and communication. Back then, if you wanted to promote your business, product, or book you had to market to radio, TV, and print publications, otherwise your message would die quietly and all your efforts to launch your business would go with it. Cycle forward to 2011. We live online and social media has almost replaced the nightly news.

And while it's great that we have these channels, there is always a downside to this new, tethered, social media world. We have a lot of news. A lot of it. And not all of it is news, either. Some is just wasteful white noise and much of it, we ignore. Now, the challenge is no longer can you get someone's attention, but can you keep it? And can you keep their attention long enough to get them interested in your message, business, brand, or product to turn contacts into evangelists? One thing I've learned: It's not a challenge everyone is up for and that's OK. If it's not your thing to wrestle your way to the top of the Twitter posts or Facebook mentions, that's fine. But if you want to get noticed and sell product, you'll have to ramp up your game. Here's how to do it:

  • Be good or be gone: For lack of a better term, there's a lot of junk online. A lot of people ramble on about things that only they care about. We currently run a program that gets a lot of "Likes" to a client's Facebook Page. We're such a numbers driven society that people love this program. Here's the kicker though: You can get Facebook "Likes" but that doesn't mean they will keep liking you. You have to post good, interesting, unique and compelling content. There is so much information out there, you must be good, or be gone. You won't even have to leave the virtual party because if you keep posting self-absorbing, look at me posts, no one will listen anyway.
  • No one cares what you say: Truth be told, no one cares what you tell them. What people care about is what their friends say, who their friends recommend. You must be so compelling, interesting, funny, helpful -- or whatever -- that people will start to evangelize your work. That's when it happens: when you are interesting enough that people want to tell other people about you. Remember, no one cares what you say. They only care what their friends care about. A survey done by Edelman Digital noted that fewer than one in three people trust marketing messages. Scary, isn't it?
  • Give consumers what they want: It amazes me how often marketers make consumers conform to their needs. Remember, it's not about you, it's about your consumers. Give them what they want and they will give you what you want. So often I see business people with messages that are highly ego based, meaning it's about them. Leave your ego at the door and make it about your consumers. People want valuable insights, access to information and lots of free stuff. Yes, I said free. If the thought of free makes you shiver, here's an article that shows you how to monetize "free."
  • Numbers matter: Let's face it, we're a society that pays attention to the numbers we see on Twitter and Facebook. If you are promoting yourself and have 10 followers on Twitter and 16 "Likes" on Facebook, you might want to think about paying more attention to these properties. Consumers like what other consumers like and the numbers associated with these sites often determine how "likable" you are. Bigger numbers get consumer (and media) interest.
  • Getting people to pay attention: You have to stop your consumers in their tracks, get them to put down their iPhone, iPad, Droid or whatever gadget they're consuming their news feeds on and get them to pay attention to what you are saying. How do you do that? This goes back to my first point: Be Good or Be Gone. Get people to pay attention by adding solid, helpful and insightful content to your feeds. If you ramble on about the flight you missed or the bad day you're having, I can guarantee that people will turn the virtual channel.
  • Do stuff people will love: Getting people to love you is easy. Do stuff they'll love. This is why I talk so much about giving away information, being helpful, being on top of your industry. I am always stunned when people come up to me at conferences to tell me how much they love our newsletter (The Book Marketing Expert) or how much they love the information we share on The Huffington Post. Give people what they want and they will give you what you want: love -- and, hopefully, sales.
  • Make random connections: Not all of your contacts or connections need to make sense. They are following you for a reason, because they want to be part of your information funnel. Here's a cool little idea you might want to consider. Make random connections. What I mean by this is that every couple of weeks (or more if you have the time), email or direct message someone who is following you on Facebook and/or Twitter and ask them if they like the information that's being sent to them and what you can do better. When you ask these questions, you may not always like the answer but I can almost guarantee that you will find it helpful. Our best information often comes from our audience. I've known some business owners/speakers to develop entire content for a product, book, or consulting package based solely on audience questions. Their questions and feedback will show you their interest and hot buttons. Ask!
  • Be trendy: Here is what you do: go over to Google Trends, and search current trending topics. Want to drive more traffic to your site? Increase your Facebook "Likes" and Twitter followers? This is a great and fun way to do it: Talk about current trends. Now, granted, you need to be able to speak to these trends and they do need to have at least something to do with your area of expertise. But if you can tie a hot topic into your specialty you can really drive some interest to your content. Why? Because if it's trending in Google, it means the searches for this are pretty high. Higher searches means a higher volume of potential people who can find your message.

You might wonder how all of this can help you get more exposure for your business, get more people to talk about your product, service, or brand and sell more of what you are offering. Here's how: it's not enough to get mentioned in the news. While it's great, that alone won't sell your stuff. You have to get in front of enough people in a very interesting and unique way. You have to get them to fall in love with your message so much that they'll talk about you, Tweet about you, and tell all their friends to go buy whatever it is that you're selling. The new PR is really about the consumers and the message. How will you get your community so enamored with your message that you turn contacts into evangelists? That's the new PR.