It is becoming more important than ever for brands and organizations to create special connections with their customers. Many companies and organizations are turning to brand advocacy to foster these relationships. Brand advocates are loyal customers that become third-party cheerleaders for the company or organization, spreading the word to their friends and social media networks, and generating buzz.
While creating an advocacy program is one of the most impactful things an organization can do to build strong relationships with customers that lead to increased organic marketing and word-of-mouth, some organizations struggle with knowing exactly how to create the program. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Define objectives. Before you can really get started, you must determine what it is you are trying to achieve with a brand advocacy program- both short-term and long-term. Some organizations may be looking for more short-term exposure and buzz, with the goal of getting people talking. If this is the case, the organization should consider celebrity or influencer endorsements to get online conversations started. If a company is seeking a more sustainable network of advocates, it will have to build relationships with customers and identify brand advocates that will act as ambassadors to the brand.
- Decide who should be a part of the brand advocacy network. Determining who your brand advocates should be and how you plan on reaching them is a crucial part of building any brand advocacy program. Organizations should develop criteria to use to screen potential brand advocates to ensure that they are a good fit for the brand and the goals of the program.
- Decide how to incentivize advocates. Organizations must work on drawing advocates in by carefully considering what will incentivize them to be loyal brand advocates. Think about what customers’ pain points are, and what will motivate them to get involved. This can be anything from sending them handwritten letters, to inviting them to special events, to giving them discounts, to rewarding them with free swag.
- Catalyze consistent and sustainable engagement. Give advocates resources and tools to help them generate content, and be sure to engage with the content that they create and share. Furthermore, encourage consistent engagement through incentives, such as retweeting or sharing the best messages or content created by customers, entering those that participate in a campaign into a contest to win a prize, etc.
So, how are some organizations taking advantage of brand advocacy programs? One organization type that can greatly benefit from brand advocates is universities. Some universities have created brand advocacy programs, where a network of educated and engaged people promote the university’s accomplishments and contributions to the community. These advocates range from students, to parents, to staff, to alumni, to donors, etc. Being an advocate allows these community members to be a part of an engaged network, while also giving them access to rewards such as complimentary athletic tickets and discounts on apparel and university branded items.
To learn about a successful university advocacy program, check out the University of Colorado’s CU Advocates page.