Influencer marketing – hiring people who have a massive following to talk about your brand – has been the marketing darling recently. I’m not terribly surprised – some brands have seen great success with the strategy. But influencer programs are expensive. And unless you’re an enterprise brand with an enterprise budget, it’s not a viable solution. Micro-influencers might be a better fit. These professionals have a smaller reach but can be highly influential among their followers. It might be a more cost-effective solution, but it only lasts as long as you can pay to keep the program running. Let’s back up a minute.
Consumers want two things from modern brands. Trust and authenticity.
If you can give them this magic combination, you’re all but guaranteed to earn their business. But let’s be honest; it’s tough to engage authentically with audiences and build trust without a constant stream of fresh content to share. Churning out fresh content and maintaining a consistent presence on social platforms is daunting, exhaustive, and, frankly, it doesn’t always work.
What if you could combine the two?
What if you had consistent content, an always-on presence, and influencers who could advocate for your brand – influencers who are already fans – who already have the trust of their followers?
You already know that loyal customers are important to your business. But what if these customers were not only loyal to your brand, but actively championed it? What if they had the ability to influence the buying habits of others without costing you a fortune in the process?
Now you’re on to something. Here are 5 reasons to consider a brand advocacy program:
Reason #1 A brand advocacy program empowers employees
Empowering your employees to amplify your brand message is a great idea on many levels. When done correctly it can:
Make employees feel like a bigger part of the organization
Show that you put your faith in employees, which makes them feel trustworthy
Give them permission for something they already do (talk about the company on social)
Provide them with branded, thought leadership content they can share to build their own professional presence, showing that you have an interest in their future.
Breed loyalty; employees who feel they are an important part of the organization are more likely to stay with the company long-term.
Reason #2 A brand advocacy program protects your brand image
As we’ve mentioned, your employees are already talking about your company via social channels. Wouldn’t it be smart to ensure that what they’re saying fits within your brand messaging guidelines? Advocacy can protect franchise brands, as well. In fact, more than 40% of franchise professionals no longer feel traditional marketing channels, such as advertising, direct marketing and public relations, are worth the investment. Remember that most franchisors offer some level of marketing support to their franchisees. Social media is simply another marketing channel. A strong franchise advocacy program takes the pressure off your franchisees to constantly come up with fresh content to share with their audience. And it helps the parent company keep brand guidelines intact.
Leaving social media up to individual franchisees puts undue pressure on them. Franchisees who come into the business with no marketing background are given support to help them create sales materials, templates for press releases and even microsites to reach online audiences. Leaving them to their own devices when it comes to social media can be detrimental to your brand. A customer who has a negative social experience with a franchisee is 50% more likely to boycott that brand entirely. Worse, dissatisfied customers typically tell nine to 15 other people about their experience, and some tell 20+! The key for franchisors is to strike the right balance between protecting their brands and empowering franchisees to engage with customers and share relevant content.
Reason #3 A brand advocacy program promotes authenticity
Advocacy works because it’s authentic. And consumers want authentic. In fact, 91% of consumers want the brands they follow to be authentic in their social media posts and 63% say they would make a purchase from an authentic brand. Advocates take a personal stake in a brand through their endorsement and it’s because of this authentic enthusiasm that others trust it and pay more attention. The key here is to use an advocacy platform that allows users to customize posts to better fit their unique personality and audience.
Reason #4 A brand advocacy program builds trust
A brand advocacy program is the best of both worlds, extending your reach, helping you tap into new markets, and building affinity and trust. Did you know that three in four people are more likely to trust content shared by peers than content shared by brands? Brand advocates are powerful because of one commodity: trust. Brand advocates already have a deeper connection with your brand than a paid influencer does. In fact, according to recent industry research, an incredible 92% of people trust brand advocates, but just 18% trust brand influencers. And 9 in 10 online consumers say recommendations from friends and family members are their most trusted form of advertising worldwide. Whether your advocates are employees, franchisees or partners, brand advocacy programs work to build trust among your target audiences.
Reason #5 A brand advocacy program helps you reach a broader audience
Your employees are your most valuable asset. Giving them the ability to share brand content with their own social community can amplify your messaging, increase your share of voice and build brand trust. To wit: content shared by employees is re-shared 24x more often than content shared by brands.
Your advocates don’t have to be employees or franchisees (or even existing partners). At alpha | BRAVO, we use advanced social listening tools to identify the most engaged and influential followers of a brand. This is something many brands do – take Glossier and Sperry for example. Both of these companies created successful advocacy programs without the use of a celebrity influencer. Instead of paying a few big names to promote their minimal skincare and cosmetics, Manhattan-based beauty startup, Glossier (a 2017 Most Innovative Company), relies on regular women to spread the word. Sperry took the same approach, identifying 100 Sperry fans on Instagram who were already sharing high-quality photos of its products and invited them to develop visual content for its official Instagram account. You can do the same, and create a micro-influencer program that doesn’t wipe out your marketing budget.
Employees, on average, have 10x more followers than corporate social accounts. Just a 12% increase in brand advocacy generally generates a 2X increase in revenue growth. It’s no wonder that seven in 10 social marketers use or plan to adopt employee advocacy.
What if you had consistent content, an always-on presence, and influencers who could advocate for your brand – influencers who are already fans – who already have trust among their own followers? You can. A brand advocacy program is the way to make it happen. Ready to get started? Keep these five best practices in mind:
Best Practice #1: Make sure you have enough content to share.
You should have a minimum of 20 blog posts or other pieces of content published before kicking off your brand advocacy initiative. And keep the fresh content coming! Organizations that don’t have a Content-as-a-Servicemodel might have a hard time creating content on a regular basis.
Best Practice #2: Make time for training
Take the time to train all users on the software and your goals for the program. Be sure to keep track of which team members are sharing the most, which need help, which content is the most highly received, etc. in order to better understand the audiences in each location.
Best Practice #3: Help, but don’t hinder
Offer post suggestions for each piece of content but be sure to give users the ability to customize each post for authenticity (remember, this is all about building trust!).
Best Practice #4: Make it a two-way street
Provide employees and franchisees with a way to submit content they feel would be relevant to your brand’s audience. This allows you to collect stories from the “boots on the ground” and edit each to fit your brand’s style and voice. When your team members feel empowered to share their own successes, everyone wins!
Best Practice #5: Keep it simple
The easier your program is to implement and keep up with, the more likely team members will be to participate. A platform that allows participants to quickly schedule a week’s worth of social media posts in just a few minutes is ideal!
There are dozens of advocacy platforms available, such as LinkedIn Elevate and Hootsuite Amplify. Here are 10 to consider. At alpha | BRAVO we are big fans of Bambu by Sprout. We love this advocacy platform for its integration with the Sprout Socialdashboard (posting is super easy!), and its cost-effective model (highly affordable!).
Interested in creating an advocacy program that incorporates our Content-as-a-Service model for always-on engagement? Cool. We can’t wait to talk with you! Reach out here or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.