Companies are increasingly taking an active role in fostering communities of brand advocates willing to share news and reviews on their products. According to the Bzz Agent Field Guide to Brand Advocates, brand advocates are 83% more likely to share information than the average Internet user. Building your army of advocates takes time and consideration of your brand's mission and goals. But once you have these brand advocates, how do you keep them, and how can you leverage that advocacy for specific results? Here are a few ways brands build and maintain their brand advocates:
- Source content: Bloggers research and generate a vast amount of information and enjoy sharing that knowledge with others. Create a community with your advocates by incentivizing them to write about your products on your social media channels.
Stonyfield Yogurt has created a club for their brand advocates, known as Yo-getters. The company has dedicated a large chunk of their website to promoting these advocates and clearly states incentives for both: "We try to provide exciting and meaningful opportunities for them to work with us and learn more about the mission that drives us - healthy food, healthy people and a healthy planet. In exchange, we enlist their help to educate others and improve the eating habits of families across the country. Since we don't pay these groups, we understand the importance of highlighting and promoting their posts to increase their readership."
- Share content: Build an arsenal of content via advocates, and also leverage these advocates to expand your news. Build your followership on social networking sites and make it easy for advocates to share your news.
Country Crock margarine has over a million Facebook fans, with hundreds at a time sharing their content and generating conversation around the company's page.
They encourage social sharing by asking questions of fans, including a call to action in their posts (Share this if you agree!), and sharing delicious recipes for moms who don't have time to scour the web looking for simple dinner ideas. By not focusing only on their product, they gain build trust and inspire others to share their content.
- Curate testimonials and comments: Invite your advocates to review your company on your social media outlets, including Facebook and Yelp. This offers adirect link and making it as easy as possible. Brand advocates are motivated by recognition, so writing a review creates an easy opportunity to fulfill that need. When your advocates boost ratings, they also boost sales. A Harvard Magazine study found that a one-star increase on Yelp is equivalent to 5-9% increase in revenue for the business.
- Promote products: This can be a huge incentive for many advocates. Offering a sneak peek of a new product not only builds your brand advocacy, but it also helps build buzz around a new product launch.
Smartphone case maker, Otterbox, uses Instagram and invites followers to "Let us protect your mobile tech devices and in turn share your adventures with us." Nearly 19,000 followers have accepted OtterBox's invitation. OtterBox then uses that knowledge from Instagram to leverage their fans' authority by asking for design opinions, serving up questions about pop culture to get fans talking, posting "sneak peeks" to generate buzz, and offering contests that skyrocket fan engagement.
- Recruit advocates: Provide a platform for advocates to share feedback and in turn build trust with prospective advocates.
WhattoExpect.com has created a new site that helps moms-to-be set up their baby registries. What To Expect's new "Love-it Lists" takes the guesswork out of what products expectant parents actually need. It crowdsources top products from its online community of moms and dads who have "been there, and bought that." To get inspiration on what they need for their baby, expectant parents can browse Love-it Lists of parent-chosen products by category or product. This site works because moms and moms-to-be trust the What to Expect brand, and content from the site's large list of community moms leverages the top tips and advice from the trenches which new moms appreciate. New moms are inclined to pay it forward by leaving their own comments.
- Manage brand reputation: It's very clear that in this social media-frenzied world, negative campaigns against a brand can go viral overnight. All it takes is one angry customer and a hashtag - and a brand crisis is born. So how do you balance staying true to your brand without the need to try to please everyone?
McDonald's Canada works and shares with advocates' content about their business. In a campaign known as "Our Food, Your Questions", the company uses social media to answer honest questions about the sourcing of food and cooking processes for their restaurants. The company has created a website dedicated to answering any questions customers have. Questions like "Do you use real eggs? They look too perfect,' not only garnered a written answer "Yes," but the company also posted a video of an Egg McMuffin being made in one of the restaurants. This kind of transparency is what builds loyal brand advocacy that can help any brand through a negative news storm.
Building an army of brand advocates take dedication and a lot of work to share information, listen to feedback, and adapt with your audience. Brands successful at using their advocates on social media consider this group an extension of their in-house marketing team. Once you've built up your community of advocates, don't let them slip away by not engaging with them. To read more about how brands can use targeted content to appeal to consumers, download our free white paper.