A Case for Why Brand Advocates are Critical to your Business
Influencer marketing seems to be overshadowing the tried and true practice of building brand advocates. It is the latest trend across social media… and it makes a lot of sense why. Social media platforms provide millions of people with the opportunity to share just about anything… personal news, product reviews, likes and dislikes, business opportunities, product news, promotions, job recommendations… really, just about anything. Never before has there been such an open and robust forum for voices to be heard and opinions to be amplified. Whether it be personal interactions or business transactions or something in between – the Internet provides us all with the ability to search, share, engage and interact openly. In a sense, we all have the opportunity to be influencers at any given time. But, with all the buzz about influencer marketing, businesses shouldn’t lose sight of the significance of nurturing true brand advocates for their business. Here’s why…
While many companies are quickly realizing that influencer marketing can open new doors to getting their messages to a wider audience, it shouldn’t replace the efforts of building brand advocates. The key drawback to relying on “influencers” to build your brand awareness and generate leads is that influencer marketing is typically seen as a campaign – a tactic that isn’t a long-term viable solution. It’s a business transaction that is meant to seem like something more natural. Sometimes it works… and often times it doesn’t. For influencer marketing to be effective, it has to be believable… and that is where many brands fail.
Building brand advocates, on the other hand, is all about developing more personal and humanized relationships with your core audience. It’s about building that ever important KNOW-LIKE-TRUST factor with fans, friends, followers, subscribers and extended social circles. Instead of telling your “influencers” what to say about you, they form their own positive opinions based solely on the love they have for your brand. These brand loyalists become a vast treasure trove to companies and brands who embrace the opportunity to engage.
Customers who are true brand advocates – the “brandvocates” – do a world of social good for such companies… spreading their love, devotion and enthusiasm across their multiple networks. Their impact has the potential to be quite powerful.
So who is a brand advocate? These are the people who not only like your brand – they love it. They tweet, post, blog, comment, recommend, like, promote and just generally share the praises of your brand, your products and/or your services. They are loyal, they are vocal and they do wonders for your social media marketing. How?
1) They don’t work for you – they are a credible outside voice.
2) They like to talk about you… a lot.
3) They have influence – the best of brand advocates have a vast network in which they share information – thus amplifying their message (and yours…).
4) Because of 1, 2 and 3 – they have the ability to convert others to your brand. Powerful indeed.
5) They have come to know, like and trust you because of the relationship you have built with them. It’s authentic.
Brand advocates play an ever increasing role in what Google aptly defines as winning the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). The Internet certainly has changed how we make purchase decisions… and one of the biggest decision drivers is what people are saying about a brand, a product or a service (hence why Influencer Marketing is so hot right now). Customers are increasingly relying on the thoughts, opinions and recommendations of others prior to making a purchase decision – and that holds true for both B2C and B2B brands. Thus having brand advocates sharing positive, if not utterly glowing, reviews of your brand in the right places can impact whether or not someone (or hundreds or millions of someones…) decides to purchase your product. Of course there are multiple factors that influence the purchase decision, not just that of a word-of-mouth recommendation… but brand advocates and their words continue to play an increasingly significant role in that decision making process. Even more so than paid influencers.
So what is the value of a brand advocate to your business. Simply… Priceless. Thus, you need to continuously monitor and harness the power of brand advocates by providing high quality products and services, engaging with your audience on a deeper level and surprising and delighting your customers at every given opportunity. Harness your audience with the tools they need to help spread your word and reward them for their loyalty without crossing the line of paying them for their advocacy. Create a community for your brand advocates, ask for their feedback, acknowledge their contributions, and above all, continue to give them reasons to love your brand.
Darcy Schuller is the Chief Digital Marketing and Brand Strategist at Suvonni, an innovative digital marketing and brand strategy consulting firm in Chicago. As a leader in the digital marketing space, Darcy is passionate about helping clients build stronger brands through elevated customer engagement, social media marketing, content marketing and integrated marketing communications. Darcy is a respected marketing thought leader, speaker and consultant. You can find Darcy on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+ and Facebook.