In today’s connected world, brand advocacy is vital. On average, 32% of advocates recommend 10 or more brands a year via email (57%), Facebook (35%) and traditional word of mouth (92%).
This means brands need to create strategies and systems to generate, track and manage their brand communications effectively. There is no option but to mobilise your customers, employees and influencers and then turn them into your highly productive and powerful sales and marketing channels.
As businesses we need to continuously promote our products with positive customer testimonials and then encourage interaction with our brands on social networks. As brand ambassadors we need to always address negative comments from unhappy customers immediately.
With 18-24 year olds on Facebook boasting an average of 510 friends each, it’s very easy for bad news to spread fast.
Next we need to appreciate that consumers like being rewarded. Advocates are loyal to brands with which they have a strong relationship. Based on the research of Dr. Kathleen R. Ferris-Costa from the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business Administration, over 50% of advocates appreciate incentives and rewards.
It’s also important for the brand to recognise their efforts – they want to be known as a trusted agent of your brand and therefore it’s the relationship that is really important to them.
So, how do you do this?
First and foremost, make it fun engaging with your brand – people love a great experience and yearn to come back for more. Next, make it easy for people to do business with you and, thirdly, always under promise and over deliver. There’s nothing better than receiving a product a few days before you were expecting it to be delivered.
Finally, show you care and take time to follow up regularly with your customers. Brand Advocates like talking about products or services so survey them from time to time or get their input on a new product line.
Nielsen reports that 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when recommended by an advocate.
According to Social Chorus, there are at least seven customer advocate archetypes including:
The Titanic Tweeter – eager to share anything and everything. Supply this group with interesting, entertaining and digestible content.
The Passionate Pilgrim – who’s just in love with your brand. Give the pilgrim a road map that helps them share great content regularly.
The Heroic Hipster – who spotted your brand first and wants the world to know it. Welcome these ‘web warriors’ into your elite and privileged network.
The Megaphone Millionaire – these are your celeb musicians, actors, entrepreneurs and political leaders who have a huge following because they’re well known and they share loudly.
The Giving Guru – who looks diligently for information, products and services that will help their friends and family members. It’s not always about your product or service – share ‘Giving Guru’ tips as well.
The Curious Curator – has a big appetite for detailed data and analytical information. They will read and click from link to link in order to collect the very best sources on a subject.
The Noiseless Ninja – the stealthy yet influential brand advocate. They tip-toe the social streets in search of killer deals, sneaky offers and great brand secrets.
Whatever the brand advocate, they are all content creators, and content marketing is the most effective way for brands to increase engagement, especially on social networks. The problem is that brand content, whether created internally or externally, is expensive, and doesn’t perform as well as trusted content.
So the answer to your content problem is to leverage advocates.
Your brand advocates create content that not only performs better, but is also less expensive than professionally produced content. Dr. Ferris-Costa’s survey also found that brand advocates create and curate more than twice as many communications about brands as the average web user. They are savvy in writing meaningful content and sharing it on highly visible sites.
Encourage them to share their experiences with your product, give them interesting content that’s easy to share and keep it fresh. Behind the scenes videos, news, creative statistics and industry tips are all great shareable content.
Social @ Ogilvy conducted a study of nearly 7 million brand mentions from 23 brands in four countries – Brazil, China, the UK and the US. According to the study the number one driver of customer advocacy was ‘product features’.
In traditional advertising we are told to sell the benefits – the sizzle not the steak – however it seems when it comes to brand advocacy it’s the product features that drive customers more.
For brand advocates to make a buying decision and then share their knowledge with others – especially through short posts on social media – product features are easier to understand, compare and then share with others.
Remember, consumers trust other consumers. Nowadays a customer does not have to rely on the brand itself to advertise or promote a product or service because they can easily and instantly access reliable, real-time information from their social networks, friends and forums.
Tony Eades is the Director of Brand Strategy at BrandManager, a creative, marketing and digital communications agency based in Sydney and Perth.