Fellow content creators, let’s swallow a big honking reality pill together. The things customers say about our brand runs circles around the prose we produce.
According to Nielson research, 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when they hear about it from friends and family.
Maybe you call them ambassadors, fans, or evangelists. Call them what you will, but understand when people support your brand it means money. More advocates, more sales. And nothing scales quite like word of mouth. Even if you get just a small percentage to plug your products, the ripple effect can be immeasurable.
When you win over customers and help them share your brand’s story:
- Your programs get amplified.
- Advocates create content for you—for free.
- Anticipation for new products increases.
- Positive conversations spread across online media.
- Web traffic increases.
- You win new customers.
Where do you start?
Tap into those apt to become advocates.
The first phase of a brand advocacy program calls for finding your current friends—those who buy your products or tune into your communications. You want to identify the socially active set, especially those that express themselves passionately.
Launch your advocacy program to your fans first. Roll out a red carpet of sorts with special incentives to join the party. Engage your advocates via the medium where you found them.
Promote the program.
Put the word out about your program.
- Use all of your owned channels that are appropriate: the company blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
- Email news about the program with links to more information.
- Feature it prominently on your website.
- Promote it in-store (if you can).
- Fold it into traditional media (direct mail, business cards, brochures).
- Spread the news via partners with a vested interest.
Tips for fueling the fire.
Fifty years ago, Ernest Dichter, an Austrian-American psychologist and marketing expert known as the “father of motivational research” suggested customers share for four reasons:
- They love the brand.
- It makes them look good/smart.
- They want to help others.
- They simply like the content.
Keep these tips top of mind to motivate potential advocates to share your brand story:
Make it easy—Increase the likelihood of earning word of mouth (or word of mouse) by making it ultra-simple. With your online efforts, ensure it takes just one click.
Provide a starting point—Give potential advocates a starting point such as a topic or theme. You might simply ask a question or make a suggestion such as “share a photo of your family using our product.”
Set them free—Encourage sharing and conversation, but avoid dictating the message. Advocates will be more willing to engage and more credible when you allow them to express themselves freely and in their own voice.
Fun it—Your ambassadors will flock to the fun stuff, so engage them with images, video, and stories that are playful, lighthearted and whimsical.
Stay fresh—Keep creating new things. Try different ideas and let your customers know about them.
Offer variety—Different customers will consume and share different media, so don’t be a one-trick pony with your media tactics. Cover the gamut with images, video, offers, games, etc.
Recognize the players.
Even though advocacy may come naturally, you’ll enjoy a longer and more fruitful relationship with your volunteer sales force when you recognize them.
A simple thank you tweet or Facebook update could be the right gesture to spread the love. However, you might take the idea further with special recognition programs on your website and in various media.
Consider offering your active advocates exclusive access to content. You might invite them to participate in special programs. View new campaigns first. Cast votes. Enjoy savings.
Be creative with your recognition programs and the recognition itself is likely to foster word of mouth. Think about the rare instances where a company thanked you for your business in a special way. Chances are it became a story you share with friends.
A big bonus for small budgets.
Content creators constantly cite a lack of time and money for creating quality content. Empower your customers to do it for you—and presto—the problem subsides. And, of course, your brand gets far more than more content; it gets more credible content.
Advocate content receives 10x more engagement than branded paid content.*
It receives 7x more engagement than content posted to brand owned channels.*
When your brand advocates create and share content you’ll want to extend its reach by repurposing it across multiple channels, including: social media, your website, advertising, sponsored posts, and print.
Happy customers + talking customers = new customers.
According to Social Chorus, 90% of social media engagement is driven by 3% of your audience. Your challenge is to engage and inspire the passionate minority. Make them happy. Give them reasons to “talk” and the result will be new customers.
Mark Collier, social media strategist and author of “Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers into Fans,” offers 10 tips for creating your ambassador program:
- Spread the word internally and externally.
- Do research to discover your brand advocates.
- Start small and allow for organic growth of the program.
- Offer exclusive memberships.
- Connect with advocates and create ways for them to connect.
- Reward them.
- Give them direct access to your brand and people.
- Create a feedback loop for them.
- Give them tools to create amazing content.
- Release control to the ambassadors.
In the informative infographic below, BzzAgent cites research from the University of Rhode Island and highlights the fact that brand advocates are prolific content creators. They write and share more than 2x as many online communications about brands. They’re 3x more likely to blog and are usually seen as a solid source of information by the people they communicate with.
In other words, brand advocates are the most powerful members of your content marketing dream team.