Successful Evangelism

I’ve been asked what it takes to be a successful evangelist and realizing that what makes one successful at it, is often like holding sand in your hands- no matter how tightly you hold your fists, it’s difficult to contain the grains.

The term evangelist is one that either receives very positive or very negative responses.  I’m not a fan of the term, but no matter if you use this term or call them advocates, representative, influencer-  it doesn’t matter, they are essential to the business, product or technology that they become the voice for.

Those that I view as successful evangelists in the communities that I am part of?

There are a number of folks I’m sure I missed I also admire as I interact and observe their contributions, but these are a few that come to mind when I think of fellow evangelists.

What makes an evangelist successful?  It may not be what you think.

1. It’s Not Just About the Company

Most companies think they hire an evangelist to promote and market the company and yet, when all you do it push out company info, company marketing- People STOP listening to you.  What you say, do and are interested in should drive people to want to know more about you, including the company you work for and what that company does.

All of these folks talk about interests outside of work.  They post about their lives, their interests and contribute to their communities.  This is what it means to be really authentic and setting an example.  People want to be more like them because they see the value they add to the world than just talking points.

2.  They’re Authentic

Authenticity is something most find very elusive.  If you’re just copying what another does, there’s nothing authentic about that.  There’s nothing wrong finding a tip or tidbit that someone else is doing and adopting it, but it has to WORK for you.  I was just part of a conversation yesterday, where Jeff and I were discussing that he doesn’t use Buffer, (social media scheduling tool) where I live by it.  It doesn’t work for Jeff and there’s nothing wrong with that.  We are individuals and what makes us powerful evangelists is that we figured out what works for each of us.

3.  In the Know

As a technical evangelist, you can’t just read the docs and think you’re going to be received well.  Theory is not practice and I’ve had a couple disagreements with managers explaining why I needed to work with the product.  I’ve had to battle for hardware to build out what I’ve been expected to talk on and only once I didn’t fight for it and I paid for it drastically.  I won’t write on a topic unless I can test it out on my own.  Being in the trenches provides you a point of view no document can provide.

Documentation is secondary to experience.

4.  Your View is Outward

This is a difficult one for most companies when they’re trying to create evangelists from internal employees.  Those that may be deeply involved at the company level may interact well with others, but won’t redirect to an external view.  I’ve had people ask me why my husband isn’t doing as much as I am in the community.  Due to his position, he must be more internally and customer facing.  My job is very separate from my fellow employees.  I must always be focused outward and interact at least 95% of my time with the community.  You’ll notice all of the folks listed are continually interacting with people outside of their company and are considered very “approachable.”

We volunteer our time in the community- user groups, board of directors, events and partnering with companies.  We socialize, as we know our network is essential to the companies we represent.

5.  We Promote

I wish I did more public promotion like I see some of these other folks.  I’m like my parents-  I stand up for others and support them on initiatives and goals.  I do a lot of mentoring, but less when I’m blogging.  My mother was never about empty compliments and I did take after her on this.  I’m just not very good at remembering to compliment people on social media and feel I lack in this area, but I continually watch others do this for folks in the community and this is so important.

We ensure to work with those that may need introductions in our network, support in the community and reach out to offer our help.  In the public view, this is quite transparent, so when others pay this forward or return the favor, it can appear that people just bend over backwards for us, but we often have been their for the folks in question in the past, with no expectations and people remembered this.

We do promote our company, but for the right reasons.  The company has done something good for the community, has something special going on, but rarely do we push out anything marketing, as it just doesn’t come across very well from us.  It’s not authentic.

Additional Recommendations

  • Refrain from internet arguments, social media confrontations

I’m not saying to be a pushover.  I literally have friends muted and even blocked.  There’s nothing wrong with NOT being connected to individuals that have very different beliefs or social media behavior.  You shouldn’t take it personally– this is professional and you should treat it as such.

You may find, (especially for women and people of color) that certain individuals will challenge you on ridiculous topics and battle you on little details.  This is just the standard over-scrutinizing that we go through and if it’s not too bad, I tell people to just ignore it and not respond.  If it escalates, don’t hesitate to mute or block the person.  You’re not there to entertain them and by removing your contributions from their feed- “out of sight, out of mind”, offering peace to both of you… </p />
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