Identifying Brand Advocates:
Bridging the Gap Between the Digital and Real Worlds to Enhance Brand Advocacy
A social media brand advocate is someone who loves your brand and isn’t afraid to say it. Brand advocates feel a strong sense of loyalty, and talk with you and about you on social platforms frequently.
They will share their own experiences, make suggestions for improvements, and will come to your defense should anyone ever publicly criticize your brand. They are also willing to share social media content that you produce with their followers, because they enjoy being associated with your brand, and will thus amplify your reach and engagement. Your advocates already exist, you just have to go out and find them!
How Do I Go About Finding and Maintaining Them?
The ideal way to acquire meaningful advocates is organically. Engaging genuinely with customers who are already having conversations about you via social media channels leads to the most real relationships.
Customers want to know that you are listening, so thank them when they pay you a compliment or make them laugh with a witty response when they say hello. Know that even the simplest of interactions can have a lasting impact on a potential advocate and don’t be afraid to have fun with it.
I would recommend maintaining a list of your promoters as you develop them, as well as monitoring the frequency and topics of conversation, and the sentiment. Doing so will give you a more concrete way to track who is having the greatest positive impact on your social media communities and who is still sitting on the sidelines and may need more TLC.
Once you establish strong online relationships, the next step is to bring those relationships into the real world. Hosting an in-person advocate event over drinks or inviting individuals to meet with your team will make them feel appreciated and may give them even more motivation to advocate on your brand’s behalf.
There’s no need to keep it a secret that you consider them an advocate. Let them know how much you value their opinion and thank them for their loyalty. Also encourage your advocates to interact with one another. They already have something in common and will really enjoy engaging, either on or off line, with other brand loyalists.
Who Should My Advocates Be?
In this case, it truly is the quality not the quantity that matters. Having many irrelevant advocates with millions of followers is significantly less useful than having a handful of true brand promoters with relevant audiences.
Think about who your target consumer is. Your advocates should be individuals whom that consumer will respect and relate to. If you are in the travel space, the most effective advocates will be people who travel frequently and have a lot of knowledge about the subject. If you sell software, look for advocates who are trustworthy because they have experience in the field. Use caution because your advocate’s personal brands are going to reflect on your brand, so it is important that they align.
Whether your brand is young and edgy or modern and sophisticated, you want advocates with a similar image. While you can’t control who is talking about you in the social space, you do get to choose whom you purposefully build relationships with.
In this world of social sharing, the reality is that we can no longer regulate our brand’s image as closely as we used to be able to and we often have to rely on others to tell our story for us.
Finding the right social media advocates and developing meaningful connections with them will allow you to expand your social reach and guide that story in the right direction. One of the biggest challenges about using social media for your business is determining how to translate digital relationships into the real world, and growing your community of advocates is an excellent way to work towards that conversion.
About the author
Amy O’Brien is currently an MBA student at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, studying Marketing and pursuing a career in brand management. Previously, she managed social media reporting and analysis for American Airlines in Dallas. She used social data to provide key insights on brand sentiment, customer experience, campaign success and crisis communications. Prior to joining the Social Media group, Amy held a strategy role in the Revenue Management department, where she was responsible for maximizing revenue from ticket sales on American’s Hawaii routes. She graduated Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University with degrees in Psychology and Music.