So you have decided to have a brand advocate/social influencer programme and found your natural brand advocates. How do you now empower them to create content and drive conversation?
Firstly you have to share enough content and information with them on an exclusive, first-see basis to inspire your brand advocates to write, post and engage what you want them to. The key aspect of inspiring brand advocates is that they will take your 'corporate speak' and turn it into humanized branded content that your target audience can relate to. They can lead their followers if they are inspired and trusted with your new product and services news. You have to allow them into your secret plans and new launches to prepare their followers for exciting news and products.
Not all brand advocates are made equally though. It’s important to manage your advocates as you would employees. Some are star performers, some are great team players. Not all should be given the same content and expect to produce stunning campaigns. You need to give them all specific assignments and be constantly monitoring them to ensure that they complete their tasks.
You must also make the material that you give them easy to share. You need the advocates to influence their followers to share. In order to do this you need to make it easy for the content they receive to be shared into their network and beyond. Sharing widgets and a tell-a-friend programme are both essential in this content-sharing strategy.
It’s also imperative that you reward the best advocates—and not just with money but with status, treats, surprises, money-can’t-buy benefits and goodies. This will particularly feed into the status drive that many social influencers fight to achieve. Their desire to be more influential is your opportunity to feed the best ones to communicate harder, faster and more effectively than the others.
You also need to show general appreciation for all your advocates to ensure that none feel left out and become negative advocates as opposed to the positive ones you believe them to be. This takes careful management and a carefully thought-through rewards programme, even at a lower mass level. Every show of appreciation from you and the brand to them will be repaid tenfold by your advocates.
Once you have your natural social influencer programme set up, producing content and starting conversations, you can always compliment it with paid-for advocates. However, be wary of this approach, as although they may have many followers they will just as much promote your rivals' brands as yours. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.
Don’t forget your employees too. Many organisations think that their employees should not be part of their brand-advocacy programme, but actually they should be the first ones that you think about when you think about brand advocacy. They are your natural leaders and they are aware of the company’s products, services and strengths. They are usually tremendously loyal and passionate about your brand. If you identify the right key employee advocates you can empower them to compliment your social influencer programme of natural brand advocates.
Clara Chen is founder and CEO of Influr, a social-media influencer and measurement platform.