Creating brand advocates is an established goal of social media strategy for businesses, and with good reason. Advocates are 50% more influential in driving sales than other customers, with one study showing that 17.5% of sales were attributable to brand advocates.
Frequently organizations target and nurture relationships with brand advocates through conversations on social media. Brands might encourage customers to post photos with a branded tag and then repost it on their own channels or join in with conversations people are having around the company’s products or experiences.
But there are several other options for creating brand advocates that ambitious companies can explore, most of which dovetail with other business objectives.
Engage your employees
Image: Pedro Serapio
The notion that your employees can become your best brand advocates is hardly new. But for too many companies this can just translate into mass emails asking staff to share a blog post on Facebook or Twitter, which is hardly likely to result in an enthused crew of employees singing your praises on or offline.
Set Goals. Before you start trying to encourage employees to become advocates, it’s vital to set long-term goals and be realistic about some aspects of your business. Do you want to attract talented staff, raise the profile of your products, or get your blog posts shared?
Be Honest. In all cases you need to be honest. Is your company really a great place to work? Are your products or customer experience genuinely outstanding and worth raving about? Are your company blogs interesting, useful or helpful? No one wants to look like they’re spamming friends and family with messages they don’t believe in or care about.
Solve Issues. Assessing whether or not there are potentially problematic areas before you start building employee advocates could be a chance to spot and solve underlying issues within the business too.
Improve Culture. While it’s great if your employees are talking about you positively online, this doesn’t mean you need to focus exclusively on encouraging digital activity. How about supporting staff with attending and presenting at networking events and conferences or allowing them time to develop skills or projects? CSR projects could also be a way of getting messages out there.
These are the things that naturally generate conversations and build engaged staff, who are more likely to become brand advocates.
Alternative finance campaigns
Image: Bernt Rostad
If you need to raise funds to expand, the rise of crowdfunding and peer-to-business platforms give you a chance to engage brand advocates at the same time. According to a recent survey by UK Bond Network, this is the most attractive aspect of alternative finance for 10% of the companies who would consider using it.
Backers as Advocates. Campaigns with a compelling proposition can quickly win lots of attention, as well as funding. And unlike with traditional lenders, investors can become brand advocates. Not only do they have a vested interest in your company’s success, but many funding campaigns offer investors perks like free products, VIP tours and discounts – just the sort of thing that is likely to be the topic of social media posts and dinner party conversations.
One company that has excelled at this is Brew Dog, an independent Aberdeenshire brewery that's expanded on the back of several headline-grabbing sell-out crowdfunding campaigns, in which supporters got lifetime discounts from the brewery’s bars and online shop. The brand capitalized on ale aficionados’ passion for craft beer to create a fanbase that was willing to directly invest in the company and enthuse about it on social media – and which was unique enough to gain press coverage too.
User generated content
GoPro photo taken while long boarding. Image: Hairi
Like alternative finance, user generated content (UCG) is another business buzzword of the moment. When 97% of customers say that they trust UCG more than any other type of content it’s obvious why it makes sense from a sales perspective.
Celebrate the Lives of Customers. But it can also help build brand advocacy, particularly if you move beyond user reviews. GoPro is a perfect example of this. Their website prominently features the GoPro channel, which showcases the best videos and photos taken by their customers. “It’s diverse content from kayaking in New Zealand to ostrich racing in South Africa, all highlighting people’s passion,” says Kash Shaikh, their global communications director.
Encouraging their customers to connect through activities they love, whether it’s flying over the Bay area, playing wheelchair basketball or beekeeping, allows the company to create an engaged community of brand advocates, despite differences in locations and interests. They celebrate their customers’ experiences, rather than just the product.