Ajit Narayan
Guest Article

Here’s how a brand can develop an advocacy program

Our guest author says that a good advocacy program complements and powers up a brand’s content marketing plans.

First things first, this is a how to develop a brand advocacy strategy article. Not a why you should be thinking about a brand advocacy article.

So, I will keep it very short on the why.

Brand advocacy gives your content and your own (read: employees, partners, customers) people a powerful method to not just contribute to your marketing efforts, but also help them develop their own personal branding.

This is a fast growing and evolving method in your organic social media marketing stack. Think of it as a system of generating first-hand mark-ups from real people involved in your business and having a stake in it. A good brand advocacy program complements and powers up your content marketing plans.

Enough said about the why.

Let’s move to the how, and the building blocks that you could use:

Brand advocacy is about people, and what they do with your messages and content. Employees are often the most powerful advocates for brands. Be it B2B or B2C. But defining and getting clarity on which employees are key to your program, is the core building block.

Just because you have 5,000 employees, does not mean all of them will be your key users. Identify which segment of your employees are relevant and how. Here are some questions to help you think and craft your user persona:

Who are already active on social media and generating engagement on their own? The social media channel you evaluate, will obviously be determined by your business.

Who amongst your employees, have a networking purpose? For example, if you are a B2B tech company, your team may be connected with its peers across social channels. This could be a good segment for employer branding and social hiring.

Are your sales, marketing and their leadership teams on social media platforms (from a business point of view)? If not, this could be your captive user base to train to use social media for business from their own accounts. Help them build their personal brands and they will give back visibility to your brand and business.

Is your leadership team and their first levels on social media already? Well, this is kind of a good place to start your brand advocacy program.

Focus on building relationships.

Business and brands are about relationships. And, that is not built by just transactional bonds. People think rationally, but bond emotionally. Therefore, creating engaged and personalised experiences with your key stakeholders through meaningful content, campaigns, interactions and dialogues, is the first solid building block to success.

Use research to find out what they are interested in, and then leverage your interactions to align your outcomes. It is what makes the program work.

Here are a few other concrete steps you can take to build relationships:

  • Create a buzz by launching in-office events specific to the program. Reward early birds with acknowledgement and recognition.

  • Get your leadership involved, while also showcasing employees as the stars of your program and enabling them to take advantage of the benefits of personal branding.

  • Influence and encourage registration. Make it easy for users to register and enrol in your program. Get socially active users to become advocate champions of your program.

  • Tailor your content and make it relevant and personalised. No one likes people who only talk about themselves. So, go beyond branded content, and encourage user contribution and add third-party content on your category and context.

  • Create fame triggers. Everyone dreams of their 15 minutes of fame. Take the time to recognise achievers and champions – offline as well as online. Use leaderboards, certificates, badges and champion-led training to egg participants on to achieve more.

  • Be spontaneous. It deepens emotional connect. Find reasons to celebrate people, and their milestones and achievements. Pepper your calendar with surprises to keep users coming back for more.

Gamify, reward, repeat

Gamification triggers desired behaviour – in this case, advocacy. A tiered game framework that rewards quality as well as quantity of action on social networks. It serves as a tool to encourage users to participate and stay engaged.

It’s a good practice to think of this as a points-based programme and then set up your system. Also, contests are among the best ways to gamify social advocacy. Execute different kinds – for promotions and offers, specific content, best suggestion, etc. Mix contest posts with regular ones to build anticipation and ensure continued engagement.

Get the right platform

Brand advocacy is an intricate and complicated program, given not just its nature, but also the number of stakeholders, players and viewers involved in it. To implement a successful program, therefore, you need two main components – great content and a centralised platform that you can leverage to effortlessly manage input, planning, implementation and analysis at scale.

Measure and analyse

Once you’ve implemented the program, you need to track your numbers to check effectiveness and ROI. Ideally, you want a 360-degree view of the content you’ve put out across networks using the platform.

Measure and benchmark engagement as well as advocacy KPIs, and track likes, shares and reach metrics. Auto-generated traffic graphs are great for immediate analysis of live campaigns.

In a nutshell, define, design and manage your brand advocacy through a programme strategy, and it will work wonders for your organic social media initiatives.

(Ajit Narayan is CMO, Socxo, an advocacy platform for brands)

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