By Laura Spaventa

Growing your brand through positive reviews on social networks remains the most trustworthy method. How do you successfully build loyal brand ambassadors? While there’s no single formula, there are several best practices that small businesses should keep in mind.

In fact, these four practices helped Help A Reporter Out (HARO) grow from a simple Facebook group to one of the fastest-growing publicity services in North America.

1) Ask not what your customers can do for you, ask what you can do for your customers. A business is nothing without its customers. As a small business, maintaining a solid relationship with your customer base can make the difference between growth and static activity.

Too many businesses become distracted by the bottom line and neglect to consider their target audience’s needs. By building a service catered to those needs, you will not only create a more powerful product, but also create a strong base of brand ambassadors.

Word of mouth is the most trusted form of recommendation. When people truly believe in your product or service, they will publicize for you telling their friends to use your service or product.

2) Engage, engage, engage. Some of the most meaningful customer relationships are formed via social media. From day one, HARO used social media, like Twitter and Facebook, to engage with its audience and build a following through daily interactions. Followers felt like they personally knew HARO founder Peter Shankman and the HARO team because of these social conversations.

3) Say thank you. Customers don’t get thanked enough, and as a small business you can leverage your size by connecting one-on-one with customers. A thank-you goes a long way in letting your customers know they matter to you.  Shankman ended each week by thanking HARO users, making them feel important and valuable to the service.

4) Share your customers’ successes. Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done. Promote your customers’ successes, and acknowledge them while showing the power of your service. HARO posts all articles in which HARO sources are quoted on its Facebook page, and encourages followers to share with their audiences. This gives HARO users and the reporter even more publicity.

When it comes to building a brand, customers (and patience) are everything. As a small business, your customers are your biggest assets in growing your brand. The more you prioritize their needs and interact one-on-one, the more your company will experience the benefits of having brand ambassadors.

Brand ambassadors don’t appear overnight. It’s important to stay patient, stay personable, stay engaging, and always show your gratitude for customers’ loyalty.

Laura Spaventa is PR Manager for Vocus and Social Media Manager for Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and iContact.