There’s nothing more convincing than a friend’s endorsement — especially on social media. That’s why a social media advocacy program is the best way to show the benefits of your products instead of telling your customers why they should care.

Brand advocates help you connect with potential customers and cut through the noise online. They can boost your visibility by:

  • Showing off your products on social media
  • Leaving positive reviews on your website
  • Driving more traffic to your products

In short, an engaged community leads to better sales outcomes. Keep reading for our guide to building a strong social media advocacy program.

Bonus: Download a free employee advocacy toolkit that shows you how to plan, launch, and grow a successful employee advocacy program for your organization.

What is social media advocacy?

Social media advocacy is a way to leverage the social networks of the people who like you and/or are invested in your continued success: your customers, employees, business partners, influencers, and more.

According to Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising study, a whopping 89% of respondents trust recommendations from people they know. These recommendations are almost twice as likely to generate action, too.

A social media advocacy strategy turns your biggest fans into brand advocates. A brand advocate is someone who loves your brand so much that they choose to voluntarily promote your products or services on their own social media channels.

While influencers are paid to create sponsored content for your brand, brand advocates are motivated by their enthusiasm for your product or service. They opt into your advocacy program voluntarily. Savvy customers are great at spotting paid influencer content, but organic endorsements still carry serious weight.

By leveraging your company’s biggest cheerleaders, you gain access to their social networks. The trust-based customer relationships you’ll build are worth their weight in gold.

What can brand advocates do for you?

Social media is now a top channel for online brand research, second only to search engines. Customers rely on social at every stage of the purchasing journey. A brand advocate’s positive post can really help you stand out from the crowd.

Here are a few ways in which brand advocates can help you build your business:

They leave positive reviews

Reviews from real users provide useful information for potential customers. In fact, reviews are the third-most important factor when shoppers are contemplating an online purchase:

chart showing reasons driving online purchases

Source: Hootsuite Digital 2022 report

Encourage your brand advocates to leave positive reviews on your website — and make it easy for them to do so. You can even generate a link to leave a review on Google and include it in your post-purchase emails to all customers.

Customers find a mix of positive and negative reviews more trustworthy. Responding to reviews shows that your brand is open to feedback. Make sure to engage with or respond to all reviews, good or bad.

They create user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is original, brand-specific content created by customers and published on social media or other channels. UGC acts as a trust signal, taking your brand authenticity to the next level. It’s incredibly influential in the final stages of the buyer’s journey.

Brands like Starbucks leverage UGC to break up the flow of traditional marketing posts in their social media streams:

Starbucks Instagram user-generated content

Source: instagram.com/Starbucks

Only four of these 12 recent posts on the Starbucks Instagram feed are brand marketing posts. The other eight posts are user-generated content. In these examples, UGC creates a sense of FOMO that drives customers to stop in for the latest seasonal treat.

They bring in new users or customers

Seeing someone else’s success can help new customers visualize their own. That’s why success stories are invaluable when recruiting potential customers or users.

Airbnb, a giant in the short-term homestay space, builds brand advocacy with the Superhost Ambassador program.

Superhosts are experienced users who have completed at least 10 stays in the past year, maintain a 4.8+ rating, and have a 90% response rate within 24 hours. They enjoy perks and special recognition for earning Superhost status.

Superhost Ambassadors share positive experiences to help new users see the benefits of hosting. They provide mentorship and tools to help new hosts succeed, all while earning rewards for bringing new hosts to Airbnb.

Bonus: Download a free employee advocacy toolkit that shows you how to plan, launch, and grow a successful employee advocacy program for your organization.

Get the free toolkit right now!

Airbnb Superhost Ambassadors

Source: airbnb.ca/askasuperhost

With the “Ask a Superhost” function, Ambassadors become de facto customer service representatives. They answer questions from newbies and help them create successful Airbnb listings. In exchange for their support, Ambassadors earn cash rewards and enjoy exclusive features and tools.

How to set up a social media advocacy program

The key to building a strong social media advocacy program lies in leveraging your existing communities. But before you reach out to potential advocates, make sure you’ve got a plan in place.

Here’s how to start building your own social media advocacy program.

1. Start with your goals

Consider what you’re trying to achieve with your social media advocacy program. What kinds of brand advocates are you looking to build your community with? What kind of ROI are you aiming for?

Use the S.M.A.R.T goal-setting program to develop a set of effective goals. That means setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals.

Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal:

Create a brand advocacy program to grow my Instagram following by 15 percent over the next 90 days.

Now that you’ve got an actionable goal in mind, you can figure out the tactics you’ll need to follow to achieve it.

2. Identify potential brand advocates

After setting your goals, you need to find your brand advocates, recruit them to your cause, and grow excitement among them about your company, campaign, or initiative.

Be sure to develop your program around valuable opportunities and rewards for the participants. Show them how taking part in the program will benefit them. Three core things to focus on to drive the program, including your search for the perfect participants, are:

  • Effective communication
  • Clear program architecture
  • Professional integration

To find the best brand advocates for your social media advocacy program, you need to understand who you want to target, and ask yourself some key questions:

  • What are their pain points?
  • What incentives would be valuable to them?
  • What are their interests?
  • Who do they engage with on social media?

Deciding to develop a brand advocacy program doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. If your brand is active on social media, then there’s a good chance your customers and fans are as well. This community is likely already talking about (and to) your brand.

Look at your social media followers and newsletter subscriber lists. Who’s liking your posts and clicking your newsletter links? These engaged fans are prime candidates for your advocacy program.

3. Don’t forget about employee advocates

Employees can also be fantastic advocates for your brand and business. An employee advocacy program amplifies company messaging and broadens your social media reach.

When recruiting employee brand advocates, make it clear that the program is optional. Internal advocates usually see the value in incentives, but they don’t want to be bribed or coerced into participating!

Here are a few tips to incentivize your employee brand advocates:

  • Follow employees from your company accounts to boost their network
  • Use the company accounts to share creative messaging created by employees
  • Create a contest where everyone who shares a piece of marketing content is entered to win a prize
  • Keep track of employees who share content consistently and share this information with their managers
  • Acknowledge frequent sharers in company meetings or newsletters

Hootsuite Amplify helps you take the guesswork out of employee social media advocacy. Amplify allows your employees to access pre-approved content to share on their social feeds — all queued up and ready to go.

When done right, employee advocacy is one of the most effective ways to boost your public image and employee engagement.

4. Reward your advocates

Once you’ve got brand advocates, hang onto them! Make sure your social media advocacy program includes valuable opportunities and rewards for the participants. Show them how taking part in the program will benefit them.

Try the following tips to get the ball rolling:

  • Follow users that follow you and engage with the content they share
  • Highlight community members who contribute positively to your online discussions
  • Reward the people who stand out in your community
  • Send them swag or discount codes

Best practices for a strong social media advocacy program

Keep brand advocates engaged

For your advocacy program to be effective, you need to build a strong connection with your advocates. Best case scenario: you’ll have hundreds, or even thousands, of engaged brand advocates championing your brand. These advocates need to feel valued!

Your social media advocacy strategy needs to be scalable. Put someone in charge of answering advocate questions and keeping them on track. Consider appointing a program lead to take on the engagement task as the program grows.

Add value to the experience

You can keep members engaged by adding value to their experience:

  • Create programming or education for your brand advocates
  • Offer discounts on educational opportunities
  • Add value with exclusive experiences, such as in-person meetups
  • Incentivize or even gamify your program by running contests or fun challenges

A relationship with a good brand advocate is mutually beneficial, so keep up with your end of the bargain.

Review your advocacy program on a regular basis

Review your brand advocacy program every few months to see how your progress is tracking against the goals you established at the start. If something isn’t working, make adjustments to get things back on track. Social media is constantly evolving, and so should your advocacy program.

Tap into the power of employee advocacy with Hootsuite Amplify. Increase reach, keep employees engaged, and measure results—safely and securely. Learn how Amplify can help grow your organization today.

Request a demo of Hootsuite Amplify

Hootsuite Amplify makes it easy for your employees to safely share your content with their followers—boosting your reach on social media. Book a personalized, no-pressure demo to see it in action.

Book your demo now