Unlike influencers, brand advocates don’t have to be hugely influential individuals with gigantic social media followings. They can be anyone who happens to love your brand or product. Simply put, brand advocates (also known as customer advocates) are people who invest their time and reputation to support and promote your brand. They’re your biggest fans and they want to be a part of your brand for reasons ranging from a love of free swag to their efforts to build their own personal (or professional) brand by association.
The best part? Your brand likely already has potential advocates—you just need to find them and activate their potential.
Advocate marketing expert Cassandra Jowett, senior content marketing manager at Influitive (and Hootsuite Ambassador), recently joined us for an engaging #HootChat about advocate marketing. Here are three interesting insights she shared that could help you grow your own community of advocates for your business.
3 insights about advocate marketing from the experts at Influitive
1. Brand advocates don’t have to be hard to find
“Start in the obvious places: high NPS scores, [people] who say positive things about you on social, [are] satisfied with support, etc.” wrote Jowett in a series of Tweets for Influitive. “Also ask your sales and customer success reps, get existing advocates to refer to their peers—you can always find new advocates.”
Before you can ask anything of your advocates, you need to have some. There are lots of ways to find advocates, but essentially you want to look for people who’ve had a good experience with your brand. Influitive recommends starting with customers who have high net-promoter scores (NPS), which means they’d be likely to recommend your brand to others. They also suggest approaching customers who’ve received customer support and were happy with the experience.
Of course, Social media listening is a great way to find potential brand advocates. Search for people who are saying good things about your brand online, whether they’re sending messages directly to your brand, reviewing your brand or product on sites like Yelp, or simply mentioning it in a positive light in their own posts. You can also look for people who engage with your brand on social, such as followers who frequently Retweet, like, comment on, or share your posts. While they may not be as vocal as those who talk about your brand on social, they’re likely loyal and supportive followers and you don’t want to overlook them.
Then, do the opposite: look for your brand’s critics. As Jillian Wood explains in an Influitive blog post: “Customers who constantly sing your praises are nice, but in order to truly grow as a company you have to know your weaknesses. And who better to discuss your weak points than customers who aren’t afraid to point them out?” You may find that your biggest critics are actually critical because they support your brand. Plus, if you listen to and (when applicable) act on their feedback, you could turn them into brand champions.
And, last but not least, don’t forget to use the resources within your company: ask the employees who deal most often with your brand’s customers (such as sales and customer service representatives) about potential advocates. If your company runs an education program, that can be an excellent place to find brand advocates. And, of course, if you already have some existing advocates, ask them to refer their peers.
Still looking for ideas? Influitive has a great blog post that details five surprising places to find top brand advocates. And you may want to consider creating advocate personas (and no, they’re not the same as buyer personas) to help you find more advocates moving forward.
2. Choose ‘asks’ that reflect advocates’ level of interest
“Start with simple, easy-to-do activities so they can flex their advocacy muscle—Tweets, comments, feedback, shares, etc.” wrote Jowett in a series of Tweets for Influitive. “Some advocates will stop there, that’s fine. Others will want more. Ask [and] listen to find out what those super advocates want. Nurture those advocates toward slightly bigger requests that ‘cost’ more time, effort, [and] reputation—be clear about benefits.”
Once you have a pool of advocates to dip into, you need to activate them. But how?
In an advocate marketing ebook, Influtive recommends making sure that your advocates always have access to at least 10 activities, or ‘asks,’ to choose from at any given time. Some options you can include are:
- Responding to a comment left about your company in a discussion forum
- Participating in a case study
- Speaking at a user conference
- Referring a potential customer
- Sharing a soundbite to be used in marketing materials
- Mentioning the brand on social media, such as Twitter or LinkedIn
- Attending an upcoming event
- Tuning into a webinar
- Reading a case study
- Writing a product review
Use the ‘rule of thirds’ to provide a mix of asks, education, and fun challenges—like photo caption contests or trivia challenges—for your brand advocates to engage with.
3. Advocacy is a two-way street
“The best [advocate marketing] programs are beneficial for both your brand and your advocates—not just one-sided taketaketake,” wrote Jowett in a series of Tweets for Influitive. “[A] huge mistake [is] focusing too much on your brand’s objectives and not enough on your advocates’ goals. If your number one priority isn’t the advocate experience, you’re doing [advocate marketing] wrong. Plain and simple. Find ways to recognize folks who are already advocates. Say THANK YOU. Surprise [and] delight with small tokens of appreciation.”
So you’ve got some brand advocates and you’ve given them a few asks. Now what?
It’s crucial to make sure that your brand advocacy program isn’t all about your brand. It may sound counterintuitive (after all, your goal is to market your brand), but if all you ever ask of your advocates is that they promote your brand through reviews, messages, etc. you’ll very likely find that pool of advocates drying up.
You need to think about your advocates’ needs as well as your brand’s when you set up an advocate program. Create a mutually beneficial relationship with your advocates and they’ll keep coming back. You may be wondering just how to do that. The answer lies in providing value. Make it worth your advocates’ time to participate in your program.
Influitive talks about a framework of four powerful motivators that can guide how you reward your brand advocates: status, access, power, and stuff. The categories form the acronym SAPS.
Advocates will be motivated by different things. Find out what those motivators are and reward them accordingly:
- Stuff: This is the simplest category and it typically applies to your newest advocates. Don’t underestimate the power of some cool brand swag.
- Power: Provide opportunities for your advocates to build influence. This includes recognizing their efforts and listening to (and acting on) their feedback.
- Access: Roll out the red carpet to create a VIP experience for these advocates. This category’s rewards can include special perks, meetups, or education opportunities.
Status: These advocates want to be recognized by others. They often verge on influencer status, with larger networks of their own and the power to influence others.
In addition to recognizing different advocate needs and rewarding them accordingly, one thing you may want to consider doing that would serve as a perk for a variety of brand advocates is building a community. As Adam Gerard explains in an Influitive blog post: “ Advocacy isn’t just between you and a customer. You’ll multiply your results if you build a community where your advocates can hang out, trade ideas, and learn from each other.”
Use Hootsuite to find and engage your brand advocates. Sign up today!