Every marketer knows the value of positive press, especially in the digital universe. Customer voices are a robust influence for online consumers (CMS Wire notes that about 80% of social media users make buying decisions based on posts from family and friends, or brands they trust). In an increasingly mobile market, brand advocacy is rapidly changing from a public relations bonus to a fundamental marketing tactic.
The surge in mobile technology means consumers are now constantly connected to the digital market, making purchasing decisions with the touch of a button (and with a shorter attention span). The recent push toward paid social media content, too, will undoubtedly create stronger niche markets across a range of platforms. To cut through all that digital noise, personal brand advocacy is becoming a crucial tool; it’s real, valuable information consumers want to share with others, and so it’s also information others will want to see. So how does a brand become worthy to be talked about and referred to others? Here are few tips to get your wheels turning:
Getting started with a brand advocacy program
Just like any other long-term marketing effort, a brand advocacy campaign starts with some careful planning. There’s more than one kind of advocate out there. The most effective – and the best ways to recruit them – will depend on the kind of buzz you want to create around your brand. Are you aiming for short-term endorsements (paid advocacy) or long-term support from loyal, satisfied customers (organic advocacy)? As you might guess, organic advocacy requires more time and investment to develop, but it will also bring in more sustainable commitment in the long run. Setting specific advocacy campaign goals also makes it easier to determine what actions your advocates should take to help you meet them, and how you’ll measure the impact of your efforts.
Identifying your best brand advocates
To begin filling your ranks of dedicated ambassadors, look for customers and employees who already support you. Start with those who visit your store often, make frequent purchases, or interact positively with your sales representatives. Social media channels can also help identify your most influential advocates. Instead of tallying the amount of online engagement, pay attention to who’s reading, sharing, or discussing your content – you can even use a monitoring platform like Hootsuite. You can also survey customers directly to see whether they’re willing to promote your brand (for instance, “How likely would you be to recommend us, on a scale of 1 to 10?”), or include calls to action on emails, receipts, and other correspondence. Respondents with high scores or response rates are your best brand advocates. Don’t ignore lower-scoring customers, though. With careful nurturing, quiet or undecided customers may turn out to be your biggest supporters further down the road.
Mobilizing your brand advocates
Building brand advocacy requires a fine balance of incentive and engagement. Even happy customers don’t always share their opinions unless they’re invited to – but, at the same time, no reward will motivate customers to recommend a brand they don’t like and trust themselves. It’s important to make advocates want to root for your brand by making them an active part of it. Stellar customer services and quality products, of course, should be top priorities. Incentives like coupons, rewards, contests, are also great ways to get a sustainable, engaging dialogue going. Once advocates indicate that they’re ready to speak up, be clear about exactly what you want them to do by asking them to leave a comment, or share what they think about your brand on their personal social media pages. Then, make the process as easy as possible for them to follow through.
No matter what your industry, building strong brand advocacy is a long-term commitment. It means going the extra mile to show customers that you care, and to keep them engaged and invested in what you have to offer. In an age when consumers trust their friends’ points of view more than what the media says, successful marketing is highly dependent on what loyal customers have to say.