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What’s the Big Deal About Social Brand Advocates?

If you’ve heard a lot of buzz about Social Brand Advocates lately, you maybe have wondered what is the big deal? It’s pretty straightforward – having a quality advocate program can provide ROI almost beyond what other marketing methods can provide, especially from a social media perspective. It isn’t a panacea or a marketing cure-all, but in the current and upcoming social media environment, an advocate program won’t be a luxury of big brands, but something that any business marketing in social media will need to succeed.

Why? Well, frankly…they don’t trust you. It’s not you, but a byproduct of the impersonal information saturation that is the Internet. When it comes to ads on the web or mobile people only trust ads around 33% of the time. Heck, people only trust emails they opted in for 50% of the time…whereas people trust a person who they view as a genuine advocate 92% of the time, and an advocate influences a buying decision 77% of the time. (For the record, almost all these numbers are from various Nielsen studies, values fluctuate…but needless to say, advocates are trusted resources).

The other important reason is that good advocates that are nurtured and developed can provide a bigger, broader set of eyes on your content that you’re trying oh-so-hard to drive reach for, especially if you get them involved.  Advocates provide a trusted opinion that can get genuine engagement because they’re seen as helping people and the content they share generates significant organic and viral reach with a higher potential for business results than even advertising can provide at less expense. (Caveat…content still has to be good, and advocates can make it better)

Sounds great, let’s get me some advocates. While it sounds simple, it isn’t. And unlike social media advertising, you can’t just click a switch and make impressions fall from the digital heavens (that you’re paying more for every day) Building advocates takes understanding somebody’s passion for your brand. While “influencers” may have an audience that may or may not be paying attention or trust them and can create impressions…influencers may or may not care about your brand, usually require getting paid as well (think celebrities, YouTube stars).

OK, it will take some work. What exactly is that work? It is a process. It does take some time…hence the reason you hear phrases like “fostering “ or “developing” advocates. There isn’t a switch to turn on or off. It takes a number of steps, starting with understand who are your most engaged and influential, seeing their history of interactions with your brand and gauging their sentiment and passion for your brand. From there, it takes engaging and inviting them to be a part of something special, something exclusive and starting a relationship. While advocates have a deeper relationship with your brand, many ‘advocate’ solutions consist of inviting the influential to share content or finding a way to push direct sales; but advocacy, in our opinion, requires a 2-way street. Build content that involves them, drive the conversation, not just offers. An advocate is more than willing to sing your virtues, but surprise and delight them, get them actually involved and you’ll see results.

Sounds like work, but sounds exciting. Where do I start? The first step is to understand your social media audience and identify your most engaged and influential followers to begin the journey towards advocacy. If you want to learn more about it from an outside perspective, a guy named Spike Jones has written the book on it. Seriously, wrote the book.

Developing Advocates isn’t easy, but the rewards in all aspects of your business are there if done right. The social media environment provides a tremendous opportunity to make that connection and make good things happen. Go.

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