In my last post, we talked about the fact that advocacy marketing was hot and trending again. We covered the nature of brand advocates, their personas, the business value they deliver and their influence. Today, we will expand on this topic and focus on how best to engage with advocates in a meaningful way.
Incenting advocate participation
Identifying brand advocates is a bit less complex these days. With all of the social platforms and tools, brands do not need to go further than their own backyards to find a pool of hand raisers. We can quickly monitor the nature of participation on our owned social assets to determine advocate type, brand affinity, purchase behavior, experience/expertise and influence.
The tricky part is that advocates are not created equal and they choose to participate in different ways. That is why a multi-faceted engagement strategy is important. Not everyone will blog or create stories—in fact, only a very small percentage behave that way. Some will spend an exorbitant amount of time lending their support and helping others in forums. Some folks simply comment or rate content, while others may be willing to share and amplify your message.
Understanding their behavior is the key to sustained engagement, because true advocates are not paid. You need to provide an experience that offers the types of rewards that will intrinsically motivate them to participate—and most importantly, to recommend and defend you. You can fulfill on their basic needs by:
· Providing exclusive access to products, news and other branded content they can’t get anywhere else
· Listening, soliciting and using (when possible) their input on your products and services, as well as the program itself
· Showcasing individual contributions (we call this microfame)
· Allowing them to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise
· Providing a place for them to connect with each other
· Thanking them for all they do
Create your space
Look to your business requirements and make sure you have the appropriate platforms or tools. You will need some type of a centralized place to engage with them.
A component of the experience needs to be private, outside of the public eye. Here, you can issue program challenges and “asks,” like reviewing a product or sharing their story about X, Y or Z. At the same time, it gives them a feeling of exclusivity and you a secure place to divulge your choice of information.
A recognition or gamification system is a key best practice for an advocates program. It bubbles up top performers and confers a special status and identity for them.
Leverage mission appropriate tools. Do you need a recommendation engine, social CRM system, a referral program, content syndication function, social sharing, survey capabilities or blog aggregation tools?
Develop an engagement plan
To help you balance the needs of the business in terms of content, product teams, marketing, etc., develop an engagement calendar to organize and schedule activities, announcements and “asks.” This allows you to offer your advocates a variety of content and opportunities to suit many needs, including your stakeholders. Below is an example of an engagement calendar—as you can see, it can be simple in design.
There isn’t a magic formula for how often you should engage. You don’t want to be overwhelming, but at the same time, you want to establish a regular cadence. It is best to refresh your content and engagement “asks” on a weekly basis at a minimum. Be flexible, as you may want to change up your activities or topics for a week based on advocate feedback. Be transparent and have real conversations with your advocates. Don’t come off as overly promotional—it is all about humanizing your brand.
At the end of the day, engaging brand advocates is not an insurmountable task. You just need to be ready to commit to building and nurturing long-term relationships, pay off their needs and make it easy for them to do what they do best.
Please leave a comment if you have any ideas or thoughts on engaging advocates. Part 3 of this blog series will focus on measuring advocate impact and influence. See you then!
Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.
Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.
She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.