I had a chance to sit down with Gregory Shove, Founder and CEO of SocialChorus at the Social Shake-Up Conference to discuss his panel called Throwing Open the Floodgates: Empowering Employees, Your Most Passionate Ambassadors. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
PD: What's the best way for a company to identify who their advocates are, whether that's internal or external?
G: Let's start with external advocates who are typically customers. In my point of view, everybody has the potential to be an advocate, so don't necessarily pre-screen them or pre-identify them. Invite them to join. They are customers, and they're likely satisfied customers. In fact, most brands that have about a 90 percent customer satisfaction rate only have about one percent of their customers that are actual advocates. We call that the advocacy gap, which is really the opportunity for brands to tap into this un-mined potential advocacy.
For internal employees, you could start by picking a function within the company that's most likely to be engaged in terms of advocating for the brand. So often that's sales, marketing, and customer service, the external-facing departments. But in general our point of view is invite people and then measure later who has actually become an advocate and don't pre-screen.
PD: Is there a right way and a wrong way to incentivize advocates?
G: I don't think there's a "one size fits all" answer to that question. I think there are some principles that are out there. People say if you directly monetarily incent employees or reward employees, it won't work over time, and they will be habituated to receiving that kind of financial reward, although we do have customers who have used some financial incentives successfully. We prefer a mix of explicit rewards that are clear as to how they can be won or earned by the advocate as well as 'surprise and delight' along the way, so in the moment, recognizing advocates in a way that's lightweight but meaningful. So things like status, group recognition, invitation to an exclusive event, access to content that someone else doesn't get access to. In general, we believe that recognition and feeling like an insider to the brand is the most important thing to advocates as opposed to getting a $25 gift card. . While you can "rent," advocacy, we believe it's not sustainable in the long-term, nor does it reflect most brands' values.
PD: Do you separate advocates from influencers? Is there a difference in your mind?
G: In our minds, advocates are either internal employees or external customers. Influencers are people out on the social Web that have some degree of social following or influence and are willing to consider being an advocate for the brand. A good example of that would be a person from the press who writes about your brand but also writes about brands in your space. They have high influence but may not necessarily be an advocate for your brand.
PD: Are there different types of advocates and what they share and how they share?
G: I think that advocates share for the reasons that everybody shares in social media. I think there's a lot of research to support why people share like: to help their friends, to enhance their own standing, and to participate in communities. Those rules apply to brand advocates as well.
I think consumer-facing brands will find their advocates are more interested in sharing offers, experiences, and very insider-type information to other friends who they think might like the brand. For B2B brands, the advocates are sharing, we think, primarily to establish their credibility in the industry in their subject matter by being a thought leader and to fulfill their job role in a more effective way inside the company.
PD: How can brands scale social endorsements from advocates to millions of consumers?
G: Scaling is the important part, and that is accomplished using technology. The overlap between employees and brand followers is very low. Meaning your customers reach a completely different audience than the brand reaches on the brand's own social channels. So there is that potential for millions and reach that the brand doesn't currently have. How do you scale? You make it easy. You've got to make it easy to join and participate. You have to make it lightweight and mobily-enhanced or more mobily-capable. And you've got to provide that recognition reward over time. I think you have to work hard at it. There's no doubt about it that advocate programs require work, particularly to sustain them.
PD: How do you know whether your advocate program is working and is worthwhile?
G: Let's talk about the first part of that question. Is it working? You need to look at the number of active advocates as a percentage of your customer base or your employee base, and the number of actions or endorsements they've provided to the brand over the course of a year. We think four, one per quarter, is a good number for advocates in terms of activity.
Regarding value - we establish KPIs with each client. It depends on the brand. Consumer brands typically want to drive traffic and Web visits or even transactions. B2B brands want to drive thought leadership, their own brand's social following, so different KPIs for different brands. All programs should have well thought-out KPIs and quarterly check-ins against those KPIs.