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Leaders in Advocate Marketing: Q&A with Erik Qualman

Last week, we launched our “Leaders in Advocate Marketing” series with Jason Falls – you can read the first post here. As a quick reminder, we started this series to help brands understand the word of mouth landscape and how to drive the best results across social, email and all customer engagement channels. The social media leaders we’re interviewing will give their advice on the future of social media advocacy and influence, along with detailing how brands can activate their most effective advocates.

This week, we sat down with Erik Qualman, professor, international author and keynote speaker. He is also the former head of marketing at Travelzoo Inc. (TZOO). Erik’s book, “Socialnomics,” made Amazon's #1 Best Selling List for the US, Japan, UK, Canada, Portugal, Italy, China, Korea and Germany. His 2012 book, “Digital Leader,” propelled him to be voted the 2nd “Most Likeable Author in the World” behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Erik recently authored a third hit, “What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube.”


erik-qualmanErik Qualman, Professor of Digital Marketing, Hult Business School, Author, Socialnomics

1. Have you seen any brands that truly have visionary senior executives when it comes to brand advocacy and social adoption?

Some of the most visionary senior executives include Tony Hsieh at Zappos, Ragy Thomas at Sprinklr, Dave Kerpen at Likeable Local, Julia Hartz and Kevin Hartz at Eventbrite, Angel Martinez at Deckers Outdoor, Mark Stanley at Sony PlayStation, Jill Puleri at IBM, and Lyndon Lea at Lion Capital. For example, when you look at Hsieh, he allows all of his employees access to the Zappos social media accounts. His thought process is this: we at Zappos trust our employees and in turn they don’t belie this trust. If you look at Dave Kerpen at Likeable Local, he and his wife Carrie are already using Snapchat to recruit young talent, which is far ahead of the social technology curve for most companies.

2. How is brand advocacy different on Facebook vs. Twitter?

On Facebook, advocates can share deeper thoughts. The tool lends itself to longer posts, images and video. More than just the ability to share deeper content, Facebook also lends itself to deeper relationships, so advocates on Facebook generally have stronger relationships with friends than an advocate on Twitter has with his/her followers. Twitter is an effective broadcast platform, but doesn’t have the same advocacy depth as Facebook due to the short posts and public nature of the platform/followers.

3. What brands and people would you consider yourself an advocate of?

I advocate for strong brands and people like Zappos, Likeable Media, Uber, Warby Parker, U.S. Global Entry, Michigan State University, Amazon Prime, McCombs School of Business, Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, Shark Tank and Michael Parrish DuDell.

U.S. Global Entry doesn’t sound sexy, but it sure as heck is sexy when it only takes me three minutes to enter the country instead of three hours. They excel at being consistent; with them, I don’t have to fill out the re-entry form and the longest I’ve ever waited in line upon my return is five minutes. Better still is that they smile and treat me like I’m staying at the Four Seasons rather than going through the brow beating questions I used to face.

4. What do you consider the main difference between advocacy and influence?

The main difference between advocacy and influence is the share of voice each has access to. There are a limited number of influencers – these are your top thought leaders. On the other hand, there is no limit to the number of advocates a brand might have.

Advocates have influence, but not at the initial scale of an influencer/thought leader. What it comes down to is that both influencers and advocates are crucial to a successful program. If a company is able to earn accolades from a handful of influencers and hundreds of advocates, then they are positioning themselves for great success and an improved bottom line.

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