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updated 2/24/2013 2:47:35 PM ET 2013-02-24T19:47:35

Collecting Facebook likes and Twitter followers is important for building a social media fan base. But business owners who want tangible results from their social media efforts are looking deeper into how they can convert fans into advocates for their brands.

"The days of experimentation are over," Michael Wrigley, chief marketing officer for U.K.-based social marketing platform EngageSciences, said yesterday during "You've Built a Fan Base, Now What?", a panel discussion during the Social Media Week Conference in New York City. Your fan base is like any other database, he said, and if you don't activate it, "the data will be pretty much worthless."

Here are three strategies that you can use to turn your social media fans into advocates for your brand:

1. Listen to, then engage with fans.
On a day in early September last year, Aaron Hall drove for seven hours -- 400 miles total -- from Youngstown, Ohio to New York City to be first person in line for the unveiling of the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 smartphones. That's how excited the 32-year-old systems administrator was to see them.

When Nokia learned of Hall's journey, the company blogged about it. The immediate result: a devoted customer felt appreciated, and Nokia showed that it treats its customers as individuals.

You might not come across passionate customers like Hall every day, but the trick is to listen to what your fans and followers are saying about you over social media, then engage with them and highlight their passion for your brand. These people are your biggest advocates, said Brad Spikes, Nokia's head of social media marketing for North America.

Related: 3 Social Media Lessons From Ford

2. Concentrate on your 'soul mates.'
The Humane Society of the United States has 1.6 million Facebook fans and more than 180,000 Twitter followers. Its challenge is to sift through all those people to find the few who will be ambassadors for the Human Society's mission, says Michael Hutney, director of emerging media and strategic accounts for The Stelter Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based marketing firm for nonprofits.

Hutney suggests launching fun social campaigns as one way to separate out your most engaged fans. For example, the Humane Society created a Facebook campaign around "cruelty-free" products, including a quiz that encouraged users to "Test your cruelty-free IQ." From there, it was possible to see which users had shared the quiz, how many referrals they had made and how many of their friends had subsequently taken the quiz.

With this method, "I can identify invisible people in the crowd and find out who cares about [my brand]," says Hutney. Once these top advocates had been identified, Humane Society communications officers were able to follow up with them to get them further involved.

3. Make new fans with multi-platform campaigns.
Last November, Kellogg's cereal and a U.K.-based television network teamed up to promote the company's new Krave cereal to viewers aged 16 years and older. For a week, TV ads that ran during Channel 4 shows popular with this demographic posed trivia questions related to material in the show and directed viewers to Krave's Facebook page to enter their answers. Kellogg's created this cross-platform promotion based on the knowledge that 72 percent of people 25 years old and younger use Facebook or Twitter to comment on TV shows.

The result: 50,000 interactions with Krave's Facebook page, of which 13,000 were referrals -- meaning people shared the promotion with their friends, increasing Kellogg's marketing reach and potentially creating new customers.

After a campaign like this, it's important for brands to examine how well they're reengaging their existing fans, said Richard Jones, CEO of EngageSciences. Go beyond treating your fan base as just an undifferentiated set of numbers.

Related: 3 Ways to Make Your Brand Memorable on Social Media

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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