Updated March 24 at 6:25am

Building real-world followings


Social media has become second nature for many small-business owners and startup entrepreneurs. Business owners spend significant time – and sometimes money as well – seeking fans, likes and followers on all kinds of social platforms, from Facebook and Twitter, to LinkedIn, Quora, Tumblr and Pinterest, among others.

But while fussing over online followers, business owners sometimes forget that making customers fans in the real world is also vitally important. Turning someone into a fan of your business means more than convincing them to click a link or check a box online. Maribeth Kuzmeski, founder of Illinois-based Red Zone Marketing, says that customer loyalty is similar to team loyalty. In order to get customers or clients to become true fans of your business they have to develop a strong emotional connection similar to one you might feel for your favorite sports teams. Success hinges on what you offer and how you offer it.

The passion part is your differentiator. Few businesses act with real enthusiasm toward customers.

Here are essentials for building real-world fans:

• Offer something unique. Whatever you offer customers can’t be merely better; it has to be different. To gain die-hard fans, offer or do something that no one else dares.

So how does Buc-ee’s Beaver gas stations in Texas earn regular kudos? They’re different. For example, they’ve focused on one thing people dread most about gas stations: the bathrooms. Every Buc-ee’s has super clean, over-sized bathrooms, and full-time attendants to keep them in shape. Customers rave about it online; they write glowing blog posts, Facebook items and Yelp reviews about Buc-ee’s.

• Create something valuable. This has two parts. First, you need something valuable to say — a message, tip or other piece of information your customers will want to pass along. Now make it easy for them to share that message.

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