How to Build and Nurture a Brand Advocacy Network
Chances are, if you actively participate in any social media channel, you’ve seen it—an angry rant from someone who has just had a terrible customer experience. Conversely, but perhaps not as often, you’ve seen a glowing endorsement of a company or product, based on a good customer experience. In an age where a public stage to voice complaints and kudos is just a click away, it is more important than ever for organizations to create a strong tribe of brand advocates as a part of a sound digital marketing strategy.
Brand advocacy is the simple act of speaking favorably about a brand, organization or product, and then spreading that positive feedback by word-of-mouth to others. Imagine, creating a whole team of marketers and lead generation specialists, without even adding one headcount to your payroll. Brand advocates have the power to influence hundreds, if not thousands, of people by simply telling their network of followers how they feel about your organization.
So how do you build your army of advocates? First, look for people who are already talking about your product or brand. Interact with them on social media and personally express your gratitude. Once you’ve built a rapport with them, invite them to be part of an official brand advocacy program. Be transparent and realistic about the expectations you have for them and any rewards or gamification they can expect for participating. Be careful about what you provide to your advocates in exchange for their participation. If you want to offer something tangible, you might consider offering access to a webinar or event, instead of cash or merchandise. Your best advocates want to talk about you because they believe in you; not because you are paying them off.
Choosing the right platform for your advocacy program
Find the right platform for your brand advocacy program. Whether you contract with a vendor or you start small by asking your customers to Tweet or blog, it is crucial to find a platform that your advocates want to use, and that your organization can maintain. Regular, authentic engagement is the key to a lasting brand advocacy program.
Lastly, you need to relinquish a little bit of control. You can’t be the brand police if you want a credible advocacy program. Customers may not express their thoughts about your brand in the same way that your marketing department does, and they may not adhere to your style guidelines, but that’s okay. Let them talk about you in their voice, in the way that they choose. If you are coaching them on what to say, your audience will see right through it.
The sky is the limit!
Now is the time to test the waters. One brand advocate turns into two. Two turn into four. With a solid internal strategy for how you will recruit and engage with your advocates, the sky is the limit!
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