This article has been contributed by Elizabeth Victor.
Social media advocates are consumers who help promote your company by sharing their own excellent experiences with their social networks.
Identifying and keeping these folks happy is a vital part of your social media strategy as well as brand reputation. They often not only promote your company to their own network but also will defend your brand if negative comments are made. Consumers are gaining more influence than ever before. This shift in power is a result of social media and online consumer reviews.
Why Consumer Advocates are So Important
There have been several studies that show statistical proof that consumer advocates work. A study from the Wharton School of Business, R&G Technologies, and McKinsey all revealed the benefits of consumer advocates:
- Consumer advocacy reduces the cost for acquiring new customers.
- A referred customer has a 16% higher life-time value.
- Referral leads convert about 30% better than leads from other channels.
- Referral leads take less time to actually convert. (Less decision time on the part of the referred customers.)
- Word of mouth is behind 20% – 50% of all purchasing decisions.
- People trust friends and family more than any other source and therefore spend 2 times more attention to recommendations from friends than from other advertising sources.
- 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services; however only 29% actually do. This emphasizes the need to develop and nurture a consumer advocacy program.
Brand Advocates Make Marketing’s Job Easier
Essentially, this helps the social media and PR team do their job much more effectively because studies show that consumers believe online reviews, even from people they do not know, over company advertising and messaging. Let the happy customers you have help spread the word through their networks. It is also important to understand the importance and the value of brand advocates vs. social influencers.
Consumers trust brand advocates 92% while they trust social influencers about 18%. When beginning a brand advocate campaign, as with any marketing campaign, it is important to outline your goals by listing what you are looking to achieve from the brand advocates you will target. This article will elaborate on these facts and show how to identify and empower your own social media advocates.
Brand Advocates Make Sales’ Job Easier
Brand advocates can not only help spread the word about your company, but they can also help with sales. In the past, a customer would go to a store and ask the sales staff to help them find what they are looking for.
Now, consumers will often look online first to research and poll friends on social networks what they think about the store, the product, etc. Many consumers will actually do this while in the store.
They are looking for the word of their social network or consumer reviews from people they don’t even know rather than seeking out someone in the store for help. Making sure that there is ample information and reviews about your products and services will help increase sales.
Identifying Potential Social Media Advocates
The first step in this process is identifying your social media advocates. Monitoring your media channels will help you find customers or clients who speak about or review your company in a positive manner. Reach out to them an engage them.
Once you can identify potential advocates, you should enter them into a special database that you keep on high alert so that you can schedule regular engagement with these individuals. The type of engagement and rewards should be determined by your company and set forth is specific guidelines. The steps are:
- Use social media monitoring tools to alert you about media mentions for your company name and your keywords.
- Identify the potential brand advocates.
- Enter the potential brand advocates in a database to keep track of them.
- Engage with potential advocates and develop programs to enhance their loyalty and interactions.
- Keep up the high level of customer service that made the brand advocates happy in the first place.
Coupons, Loyalty Programs, and Gamification
The most important thing to remember when talking about or considering rewarding brand advocates is that outright paying them is off the table. It is unethical and can get you in a lot of hot water.
Many brand advocates just love your products and services and that is how they got into that category in the first place. However, rewarding them in different ways can help to increase their satisfaction even more. Rewarding them for their positivity towards your brand will help to increase their level of engagement.
Here is a list of different types of ways to can honor or reward your brand advocates. Of course, it is up to you to decide the reward or recognition; it can be in the form of a coupon, or participation in a loyalty programing. Gamifying this process is usually the best way to increase the engagement as well as their business too. There are many programs and applications available that can help you through this process. However, do not forget to add the personal touches. Refer a friend programs can be a big part of this process.
Refer a Friend Programs
One way to get started building consumer advocates is to offer a ‘Refer a Friend’ program. Offering your current customers a discount for referring their friends is one of the best ways to gain new customers. Let those current customers tell their friends and family about your company. Incentivize them with a discount or free offer to ensure they will want to tell their friends about it and so that they will remember the offer. However, it is important to remember that if the customer is not happy, no amount of discount will convince them to tell their friends about you; at least not in a positive way.
Keep up the Good Work
The high level of customer service and personalization is what can set you apart from your competition. Of course, this special list of social media advocates should be on a priority or VIP list so that they are recognized for their efforts and always meant to feel special.
However, it is important to treat all customers with the highest level of respect and deliver the great quality products that impressed your brand advocates in the first place. This will continue the chain of building advocates.
Engaging Brand Advocates
Here are a five ways to let your brand advocates know that they are appreciated and give them special attention:
- Offering discounts and free gifts has long been a way to connect with and reward loyal customers. The ‘refer a friend’ program example above is a great example of this.
- Another way to reward brand advocates is by sending them a free gift card. Even a small gift like a coffee gift card or similar. Showing them your appreciation will go a long way.
- Make them affiliates. Let them earn money for their referrals by giving them a simple URL code to use or a special coupon code.
- Send a special thank you note. In today’s digital world, snail mail communications tend to stand out and also show that some extra effort was shown. Just be sure that your snail mail communications are personalized and do not look like a mass message you sent to anyone else but the recipient.
- Trade product instead of advertising with industry influencers. Bloggers and other influencers in your market will often review your product or services in exchange for a free sample. Providing that you stand behind a strong product or service, this can help increase the reach of your business to new customers who are greatly influenced and likely to buy anything that powerful influencers positively and passionately review and share with their audience.
Summary and Takeaways for Your Business
Word of mouth marketing has shown a better return on investment than other advertising methods because consumers tend to believe and are influenced by the word of others much more strongly than a company’s advertising. For this reason, brand advocates become influencers and are worth the effort because of the increased potential growth of customers and sales.
If a brand advocate is treated right and the relationship is built strong with a high level of loyalty, their commitment and devotion to your brand can and will encourage others to follow them and try your products or services.
Bio: Elizabeth Victor is Brand Advisor for Isentia Social Media Analysis. She enjoys sharing tips on social media monitoring and analysis.