A brand advocate is someone who elevates and raises the profile of your brand through word-of-mouth marketing.
Therefore, with the rise of social media, brand advocacy is a powerful modern marketing strategy enabling you to reach a wider audience.
Humans are packed creatures, whether we realize it or not. We require social interaction and a sense of belonging and naturally move with the crowd.
Because of this, the decisions, viewpoints, and behaviors of others around us impact us both consciously and unconsciously.
This herd instinct makes social proof a powerful way to attract potential customers and affect purchasing decisions.
It’s not rocket science.
Follow the logic:
it pays to cultivate a group of brand advocates who amplify positive perceptions of your product or brand online, building your credibility.
That’s why investing in a brand advocacy strategy is worthwhile as part of your marketing campaigns.
What Is Brand Advocacy?
Brand advocacy is when loyal customers of your brand support your branding activity by organically promoting your services or products to new customers.
Brand advocates don’t need a second invitation to praise your brand to their peers because they genuinely want to share their enthusiasm for the brand experience.
Brand advocacy happens every day wherever there are happy customers.
But it’s not until you take the time to cultivate advocates, can you really see the impact on your brand as the experiences of your happy customers flow freely across social channels and other congregations.
It pays to harness the power of brand advocacy because it amounts to a cost-effective marketing campaign.
You can reach large receptive audiences and influence purchasing decisions, as a supplement to other forms of marketing from organic to paid.
And, in the modern marketplace, brand advocacy is often more persuasive than traditional advertising.
Think about it; you know this intuitively from your personal experiences.
Consumers nowadays are subject to a lot of brand noise as we encounter advertising on TV, social media, billboards, and in plenty of other new and ever-evolving environments.
Sometimes, we feel overexposed to traditional advertising methods in an oversaturated space.
In this context, we crave authenticity and want somebody, a real, genuine person, preferably somebody we know, to cut through the overt traditional branding and share their authentic opinions about a product or service.
This authenticity is the essence of brand advocacy.
The best brands have no shortage of loyal customers talking up and sharing social proof of their customer experiences with the brand’s high-quality, great products.
Where a slick, polished email marketing campaign may attract a customer, positive reviews are more likely to be the critical factor influencing the customer to engage and make a purchase.
Therefore, engaging with your customer base to cultivate an army of brand advocates is key to building an authentic, strong brand with growth potential.
Brand Advocates vs. Brand Ambassadors vs. Influencers
It’s easy to get lost in all the labels, so let’s take a moment to differentiate between some seemingly similar roles.
Again, the logic is simple.
A core marketing principle is to deliver engaging content to the audience wherever they are present and most likely to engage with it.
As social media evolves and attention shifts, so do marketing methods.
After all, TikTok influencers didn’t occupy any headspace for marketing managers five years ago.
Influencers, brand ambassadors, and brand advocates all use social media to share content, but each role has some key differences:
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An influencer has a sizable social media following, typically 10,000 or more, who can recommend various products or services during their content creation.
Brand managers see these influencers as having significant marketing potential because they have a large captive audience who listen eagerly to their perspectives.
In other words, influencers can influence.
Influencers frequently collaborate with companies and brands on one-time sponsorships.
Some influencers may create content such as review articles. Others might show how they use the product within their professional or personal lives and offer a one-time promotion in the natural course of content.
However, influencers don’t exclusively represent a brand.
Brand ambassadors enter formal and exclusive relationships with the brand they’re promoting. It is often a full-time job to represent the brand.
Brand ambassadors are effectively paid spokespeople for the brand, living out the brand’s core values across various channels and platforms.
They are usually paid on a retainer basis, are given insider knowledge about the brand, and become walking, talking advertisements for the company.
Brand advocates don’t enter into formal relationships with the brand but are much more than just loyal fans.
Brand Advocates are brand loyalists who engage with the brand because they genuinely love it and will willingly follow the brand’s lead if asked to create content, share content, leave reviews, or participate in any brand-related activities.
They may or may not have a sphere of influence themselves.
Therefore, influencers and brand ambassadors can be brand advocates, but brand advocates don’t become brand ambassadors or influencers unless they enter a long-term or short-term contract to promote the brand in some way.
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Who Can Be Brand Advocates?
Almost anybody who enthusiastically supports a brand’s growth can be called a brand advocate.
However, it’s helpful to think of two main groupings:
Customers have no official affiliation with the brand. This lack of any contractual obligation to the brand is what can make brand advocates so powerful.
Nothing quite convinces peers like objectivity.
Consumers take notice of other consumer opinions, especially if there is no apparent ulterior motive in promoting a brand.
Your perceived reputation is determined by how people feel and speak about your brand.
And when consumers see enthusiasm surrounding a brand and its products, that enthusiasm is infectious.
When you have a group of loyal customers shouting loud and proud about the benefits of your product and services, or the warmth and personalization of your customer service, or simply that your brand is ‘cool,’ this serves to build your brand’s reputation.
Therefore, if you can shape that process through brand storytelling to make deeper connections with your core target audience, you can convert more customers into brand advocates, further shaping your brand perception in the audience’s mind.
Employee advocacy uses an alternative method of persuasion to customer advocacy.
Employees are brand experts with insider knowledge of the company. If they are enthusiastic about the brand, it makes sense to rope them into its marketing efforts.
LinkedIn, and promoting the company through their own content showcasing their authentic, personal stories and experiences with the brand.
And consumers and clients, particularly in the B2B space, often tend to trust employees despite their attachment to the company as long as they come across as personable and genuine.
Many brands understand that employees can be an immensely valuable asset.
As the mouthpiece of a brand interacting with clients, customers, leads, and other industry professionals every day, they make up a significant part of your brand experience.
That’s why it makes sense to cultivate and incentivize employees to take up the role of advocating for the brand.
After all, if the employee feels a deep connection with the brand, they presumably want it to succeed as much as you do.
To maintain high levels of engagement, social media platforms emphasize user-generated content more than branded material nowadays.
That means that utilizing the social media accounts of your staff members can increase your organic reach.
5 Benefits of Brand Advocacy
Brand advocacy adds credibility to your advertising campaigns since consumers pay attention to the thoughts and opinions of “normal” people.
Using brand advocates in your branding can bring about the following benefits:
#1. Organically grow your brand visibility. Since they naturally share your message with passion and enthusiasm, brand advocates require little investment and encouragement.
#2. Brand advocates show the value of your products and services. Moreso than your corporate, high-level messaging, brand advocates will tell others how your products and services have solved their problems and challenges.
#3. Having a loyal, vocal fanbase for your brand can generate media attention as news outlets and publications like to write features on enthusiastic groups of brand advocates.
#4. You can reach areas you may not target with traditional marketing methods. Brand Advocates share your message with their social networks, which might include people who aren’t usually exposed to your brand.
#5. If brand advocacy can make up a significant part of your marketing campaigns and help you reach new audiences, this may free up some time to work on other growth strategies.
6 Steps to Build an Effective Brand Advocacy Program
Brand advocates can surface automatically if your products solve problems for customers and your messaging resonates with your audience.
These are the core tenets of any strategy toward building brand loyalty. However, an advocacy program takes loyalty to the next level.
It builds on the affinity you’ve built with loyal customers by encouraging them to keep buying your products and actively encouraging others to do so, too.
However, if you want a loyal army of active and engaged brand advocates promoting your products to others, you’ll need to nurture them through a concerted brand advocacy program.
Without too much effort, you can maximize the benefits associated with customer loyalty to make brand advocacy a significant element of your branding strategy.
#1. Define Your Community
Do some research into your most loyal customers.
What types of people are most actively commenting on your social media posts and engaging with your content online?
Is there anybody who speaks about your brand in the right voice that reflects the verbal identity you’d like to encourage?
These are the people you want to try to empower through your brand advocacy program.
#2. Communicate Brand Values Well
You are not paying people to be brand advocates.
Therefore, you must build a natural connection with loyal customers to create that enthusiasm organically.
So, how do you do that? It’s back to basics.
The best way to develop a loyal customer base is to communicate your brand values well and show that your values align with theirs.
Ensure you communicate values through content marketing, your brand voice on social media, the customer service experience you deliver, and advertising campaigns.
Then, back this up in your actions in how your business operates.
Setting these foundations well will prime loyal customers to become brand advocates.
#3. Listen to Customers
Social media plays a significant role in modern-day reputation management for a brand.
Don’t see these channels as a one-way street for communication or just a place to deposit your messaging.
Instead, take some time to listen to the conversations that arise about your brand.
How do people speak about the brand? What do they like/dislike? What are they passionate about?
Pay attention to negative and positive comments about the brand and act accordingly, amplifying what’s positive and addressing complaints or concerns.
Brands that engage with concerns quickly and resolve issues can transform unhappy clients into potential brand advocates.
#4. Invite Customers to Get Involved
Although conversation about your brand will happen organically on forums, review sites, and social media platforms, you can direct conversation by inviting comments and feedback through polls and surveys.
Asking for consumer input lets customers feel involved in the process, especially if they see their feedback is heard and acted upon.
Perhaps easier said than done, but one of the best ways to encourage engagement from brand advocates is to
Create easily accessible, shareable content with a consistent message.
This is especially relevant for employee advocates. They should be aware of a bank of helpful, educational content that can answer client and customer questions. This lets them quickly share this content to provide value and support your messaging.
Showing up regularly with new content with a consistent message on social media is a hallmark of a successful brand.
This consistency will help build trust in your brand as it shows up regularly with the same brand voice.
Sticking to posting schedules also can help create a level of anticipation for new content to drop.
Of course, creating entertaining and educational videos or blogs that resonate with your audience is great because not only does this cement your relationship, but they are also more likely to share valuable content with others.
#6. Reward Brand Advocates
Just because you aren’t paying brand advocates, that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to reward them.
Rewards and gamification also make advocacy more exciting for those involved.
For example, referral programs or loyalty programs, where brand advocates can receive points, money, discounts, or promotions, for attracting new customers can be a powerful way to offer incentives for brand advocacy.
Creating forums where brand advocates can meet and enjoy a community spirit is also a great way to nurture this relationship and breed positivity around the brand.
You can share things like early access to products and services or special promotions with these communities.
Over To You
Brand Advocacy is a natural consequence of powerful branding that strongly resonates with your target audience.
All it takes is a little push and nurturing to convert some loyal customers into brand advocates who amplify your messaging in new areas.
Their enthusiastic sharing of your content and messaging gets your brand and its product in front of eyes that may not usually get exposed to your brand.
The organic nature of this word-of-mouth marketing makes for a potentially huge ROI for a well-executed brand advocacy program.
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