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Updated Mar 25, 2024

How to Build Brand Advocacy in 6 Simple Steps

Your customers can become your biggest advocates. Here's how.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Building a brand and marketing it to interested customers is crucial to any business’s 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 that 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. [Read related article: Why Responding to All Your Online Reviews is Critical]

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 (UGC). 

Organic advocacy is far more valuable than anything your brand can buy. User-generated content has a powerful reach and is 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 UGC.

Did You Know?Did you know
Customers are increasingly prioritizing visual user-generated content. Recent studies show that 60 percent of shoppers seek visual UGC, like photos and videos, before committing to a purchase.

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 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 customer relationships 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 percent more loyal, have a 16 percent higher lifetime value, and spend 13.2 percent more than other customers.

In today’s digital age, users personally identify with brands they love and want to feel like 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 brands and customers 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.

TipBottom line
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. For example, 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 online 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.

Remember that brand advocacy can be contagious, and quality relationships drive sales.

TipBottom line
Improve your social media presence by posting about your company's values, sustainability efforts and ethics. This will show potential brand advocates that you're interested in more than profits.

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 aspects 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 insight into what campaigns have the best digital marketing return on investment. 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 brand-advocacy actions. Consider setting up a system that awards brand advocates points for specific actions, such as posting reviews or photos, attending an event, or making a referral.

Create a name for your 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.

FYIDid you know
Managing your social media channels properly can increase sales, improve brand recognition and foster customer loyalty.

Why is brand advocacy important?

Brand advocacy is valuable because it’s authentic. While people may dismiss advertising or marketing messages, 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, when Adobe asked 900 employee advocates to create and share content online, the company reached an additional 3 million people.
  • Brand advocacy creates buzz. When customers talk about your brand positively, it creates buzz, which makes people curious to check out your brand for themselves. The more people who visit 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, thereby boosting your listing in search results and sending even more traffic to your website.
  • Brand advocacy attracts media attention. Once your brand generates some buzz, media organizations are more likely to notice you. You may receive calls from journalists and see articles mentioning your company and its products and services. This kind of organic public relations gives you more credibility and increases your brand awareness exponentially.
  • Brand advocacy 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 interacted with, if your employees meet with prospective customers in person, or if prospective customers see brand ambassadors in video testimonials or interviews.
  • Brand advocacy 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 with the value you’ll receive. When your advocates perform a significant portion of your marketing for free, you can allocate your resources elsewhere.

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 with your brand, and they’ll be more likely to encourage their friends to engage with your business. Rewarding your biggest advocates creates a snowball effect that produces even more quality leads.

Skye Schooley and Sara Flick contributed to this article.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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