Building a brand and marketing it to interested customers is crucial to success. However, many businesses overlook one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools available: satisfied customers.
When customers are so pleased with your products and services that they recommend your brand to others or promote it on social media, that’s brand advocacy. We’ll explore why brand advocacy is an essential marketing strategy and how to create a brand advocacy program that encourages and rewards organic customer promotional efforts.
What is brand advocacy?
Brand advocacy is when customer satisfaction and brand appreciation are so high among some of the people who interact with your brand, they go out of their way to promote it to others. You can find brand advocacy among customers, employees, company partners, vendors and social media influencers.
Brand advocates spread the word through positive online reviews posted on your website, Google, Facebook, Yelp and other review sites. They also promote your brand via word-of-mouth advertising, social media, interviews and blog posts. These reviews, mentions, photos and comments about your brand are called user-generated content, or UGC.
Organic advocacy is far more valuable than anything your brand can buy. User-generated content has a powerful reach more influential than any ad campaign, social media marketing campaign or well-trained employee. If you develop a strong brand advocacy program, your company can spend less on advertising and create more effective engagement through user-generated content.
Did you know? In a survey by Stackla, 79% of respondents said user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions.
Why is brand advocacy important?
Brand advocacy is valuable because it’s authentic. People may dismiss advertising or marketing messages, but they often take enthusiastic recommendations to heart.
Here are some ways brand advocacy can help you build your brand:
- Brand advocacy extends your reach. Brand advocacy extends your marketing to places you may not have been able to reach because of logistic or budgetary factors. For example, Adobe asked 900 employee advocates to create and share content online, reaching an additional three million people the company wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise.
- It creates buzz. When customers talk about your brand positively – particularly online – it creates buzz. Buzz makes people curious to check out your brand for themselves. The more people who come to your business website or physical location, the more you can generate leads and convert leads to sales. An increase in web traffic can also create a positive feedback loop for Google, which will boost your listing in search results and send even more traffic to your website.
- It attracts media attention. Once your brand generates some buzz, media publications and news organizations are more likely to notice you. You may receive calls from journalists and see articles online mentioning your company and its products and services. This kind of organic public relations gives you more credibility and increases your brand awareness exponentially.
- It humanizes your brand. When a prospective customer hears about your brand from a third party, a faceless company becomes an actual person. This effect is enhanced when brand advocates tell stories about their experience with your brand and how it solved a problem. It’s even better if brand advocates mention people in your organization they dealt with, if your employees interact with prospective customers in person, or if prospective customers see brand ambassadors in video testimonials or interviews.
- It saves you time and money. One of the best things about brand advocacy is that it’s inexpensive. While you may need to invest some time and a little money upfront when building a brand advocacy program, this investment is a drop in the bucket compared to the value you’ll receive. When your advocates perform a significant portion of your marketing for free, you can allocate your resources elsewhere.
How to build brand advocacy
While some brand advocates emerge without effort on your part, you can consciously create an effective brand advocacy program by taking six concrete steps.
1. Identify brand advocacy drivers.
To create an effective brand advocacy program, identify the specific reasons why customers love your particular brand and then amplify them.
Frequently, advocacy stems from quality products or services, but excellent customer service and personalized engagement can also set you apart from the competition.
To establish your specific brand advocacy drivers, don’t make assumptions about your brand and what customers expect. Instead, use customer feedback to hear what customers have to say about your brand, including positive and negative comments. Listen and apply this feedback to improve the social reach of your brand.
2. Focus on relationships.
Developing strong, personalized relationships with customers is crucial to earning advocacy and driving sales. According to the SaaSquatch State of Referral Marketing Report, customers who are referred by other customers are 18% more loyal, have a 16% higher lifetime value, and spend 13.2% more money than other customers.
In today’s digital age, users personally identify with brands they love and want to feel as though they are a part of those brands’ narratives. To validate those feelings, offer value and build trust through social media. The relationship-building process between brand and customer is a two-way street that requires attention and thought to establish long-term and frequent engagement. Be transparent with your users, but don’t try to push sales.
If you give more and ask less from your customers, they’ll want to engage independently. Building these relationships can take time and resources. Develop a digital marketing strategy that keeps you engaged with customers and prospects. Ensure you have the necessary resources to develop and maintain relationships through community monitoring and constant engagement.
Tip: To improve customer retention with social media, create content that’s valuable to your customers and prospects, respond to your followers, and use social media as a customer service tool.
3. Inspire and surprise your customers and prospects.
Go above and beyond with customer service to create moments worth talking about. If you surprise your customers with exceptional service and unexpected benefits, they’re more likely to return and share their experience with friends. Reach out to users to invite them to a VIP experience. Select influential followers, or create brand advocates out of unsuspecting fans.
One way to get started is to monitor your Yelp reviews or other social engagement channels to find users who love your brand. Offer them something special, or even something as small as a personalized thank-you for supporting your business. This recognition can go a long way toward solidifying a user’s connection to your brand.
Tip: In your social media content, include posts about your company’s values, sustainability efforts, and ethics to show potential brand advocates that you’re interested in more than profits.
Remember that brand advocacy can be contagious, and quality relationships drive sales.
4. Enable and encourage potential advocates.
Help your advocates be heard. Include sharing options with your content so it’s easier for users to share their affection toward your brand with their social networks.
When users talk about your brand, echo their praises on your social channels to increase reach and further develop their advocacy. Reward your biggest fans with special callouts, exclusive offers and incentives.
5. Measure the success of your advocacy campaigns.
To understand the reach of your advocacy campaigns, examine the who, what, where, when and why of your shared content:
- Who is producing content about your brand?
- What are they saying to their followers?
- Where are they sharing the most content?
- When are users most engaged?
- Why are they sharing your content and talking about your brand?
Monitor website analytics and conversion rates to gain insights on what campaigns have the best ROI. Leverage this knowledge to develop your advocacy strategy and create valuable long-term relationships that drive sales.
6. Reward brand advocates’ actions.
Many companies have customer loyalty programs that reward customers based on how much they spend or how many times they purchase. This is an excellent starting point for identifying potential brand advocates, but it doesn’t reward action. Consider setting up a system that awards brand advocates points for specific actions such as posting reviews, posting photos, attending an event, or making a referral.
Create a name for this rewards program that makes brand advocates feel they’re in an exclusive and valued club. Let them accumulate points to reach different levels with various benefits, including being featured on the company blog, getting free brand swag, being invited on exclusive brand-sponsored vacations, and qualifying for discounts.
FYI: Managing your social media channels properly can boost sales, increase brand recognition, and attract loyal customers. Read our reviews of the best social media management and monitoring tools to learn how.
Brand advocacy is built on relationships
Brand advocacy strategy boils down to developing and maintaining relationships. If you cultivate two-way communication, your users will feel more integrated into what makes your brand unique, and they’ll be more likely to encourage their friends to partake. Rewarding your biggest advocates creates a snowball effect that produces even more quality leads.
Sara Flick contributed to the writing and research in this article.