Advocates and Influencers (5 steps to a strong social media strategy)

23 Jul 2019
Louis Corso

Years Ago

The number one goal of brands today is to create social proof with consumers. Years ago my Mom would write a letter to a Brand like Wishbone salad dressing, thanking them for their product. What did they do in return?  Wrote back thanking her and enclosed a few coupons. The note would say “thank you for your letter and we always appreciate hearing how our customers like our products. Please use these coupons for your next purchase.” What did it do? It solidified the relationship so much so that I tell that story over and over again. I should be there spokesperson.

Along with all of the platforms created since the internet boom, social media took the opportunity to connect with Brands and turned it around so brands can connect with customers.

Respect & Empathy

What do brands have to do in the age of social media? Give access and a voice to all who wish to connect and converse with your brand regardless of following or location. Listen with the intent to communicate back. People get to choose whether the brand is worth their time (frankly).  Respect your customer (treat them the way you want to be treated) and communicate with them making sure you always put their interest first i.e. customer first marketing approach. Customer-first Marketing approach is simple to say, simple to write and hard to do in practice. Why, because everyone in the organization has to understand the message and be able to communicate with the customer in the same way. Why? Because it takes understanding; empathy; a good communication strategy, and a lot of training, vigilance and consistency.

What is an influencer?

  • An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.
  • An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche. * Influencer Marketing Hub

Influencers get others to buy into the Brands message. Influencers come in many shapes and sizes and the best ones focus on a specific area and are not broad in their approach when they communicate. If you are sports Brand then find an influencer or influencers that focus on sports. However, that approach may be a bit too broad. If you are a business that develops Golf accessories, then find  a sports influencer that focuses his or her time on playing the game of Golf and all things Golf related and is a good communicator, polished and professional. The wrong approach is to find and influencer who has a large following and are either not in your market or are too broad. Then their audience covers many areas and your message may not be received. Be careful since your message may not be delivered to your target audience or to the size of the audience you desire.

Communicating with the right audience

As a Brand you have to be sure they are communicating with the right people. The Brand has to understand if the message they are perpetuating is taking into account whether or not the product or service meets the audience’s need. Make sure your influencers can speak directly to your market if not directly then indirectly through followers that may be able to pick up and expand on your message. Influencers monetize their social media network. They are paid advertisers to position your product in the proper light. If you are paying for an influencer than make sure you can see an ROI at the end of the rainbow. If you want to expand your number of followers on social media to build brand awareness or sell more product online or in store those KPIs need to be spelled out early and measured during and after the engagement to see if you got what you paid for and if it was really worth it.

What is a Brand Advocate?

A brand advocate is a person who talks favorably about a brand or product, and then passes on positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages about the brand to other people. That can be done either face-to-face or through digital channels such as social media, ratings and reviews or email. Advocates are people who speak positively about your product and are not compensated for their time or effort. They do so because they identify with your brand, your message, your product and your culture.  They are extremely important since their voice may carry more weight especially since they are not compensated prior to the engagement. However, don’t forget there are other ways to compensate loyal customers and Advocates should definitely be compensated for their time and effort. Compensation can be in the form of an incentive to purchase a new product or given advanced information on the availability of new products.

Brands need and want Brand Advocates. If a Brand has few customers, then the need to turn to influencers to help build awareness to bring in Brand Advocates. Influencers have to be directed by the Brand and to a channel or outlet where the brand can monitor and measure performance and effectiveness. The risk is influencers may convey a message without the brand understanding if the message has been received, understood, accepted and acknowledged by the influencer’s audience. Understand where your market and audience is doing research to find out about your brand and work with the right influencers. The beauty of an influencer campaign is when employed correctly, tightly run campaigns can be an effective and an inexpensive way of building brand awareness.

1. Make sure you have Goals

The goal of an influencer is to create awareness to ultimately drive demand. The goal of the brand is to create advocates. The goal of building out your network of influencers should be to create an active network or community of Brand Advocates. Each time you create a new program or campaign the Brand can combine the effectiveness of both groups. Meaning, take in the incoming messages from the advocates and send them out  via the influencers as well as other advocates. That is a system that can build trust as well as increase awareness and ultimately drive demand.

2. Understand the Differences between the two groups

There are many differences between advocates and influencers. Advocates crave engagement, look for ways to communicate and create content. Influencers engage their audience for compensation, require a primer to gain their attention and are in many cases are not focused and therefore harder to gain their attention. Brand Advocates are a trusted source and when you boost content that is coming from them it will have a higher Click through rate. Unlike an ad or an influencer program it has a higher trust value. Unfortunately, people do not trust brands, which is weird when you think about it because without people creating brands there would be none. People trust influencers a bit more than the brand. However, they lack conviction and passion and are not really part of the team. They have no skin in the game and can change to another brand very easily.  Brand Advocates are passionate and have staying power. However, they do require more communication.

3. Have a solid set KPIs

Be sure to have a solid set KPIs you want to achieve and set a time frame that is realistic and attainable

  • Increase in followers on Social media: Important for new products and brands that need to gain awareness
  • Increase in website traffic: If you are an e-commerce company i.e. sell online, then the products you are highlighting should have URLs that take the consumer directly to the product and into the purchase funnel and not to a home page or another page that is not product related.
  • Increase in newsletter sign ups: If the goal is conversions and you want to increase the number of people that are part of your online audience then adding a newsletter sign up on the home page is important or to any non-commerce enabled page. Do not add a newsletter popup on a product or a product display page as this could discourage the purchase. Do it instead after the purchase has been made and do have a popup if the visitor is leaving the site or going to a non-commerce page.
  • Increase in online and in store sales: It is the single most important indicator and important to show that your brand is gaining awareness. Understand where your sales are and how they are trending before you engage in either strategy. It is important to understand what are the market factors so you can have a baseline. It will take some time to effect the bottom line so don’t be easily discouraged. New brands have to create awareness first and it takes up to 12 times for a person to see your brand before making a purchase.

4.  Give them a place to engage

Social media is not the only place that you should try to engage your Customer. Your own website is a perfect example of a great place to create opportunities for engagement and interaction. Most companies still use Social media as a place to send out information, essentially as another place to advertise. If you want to stand out, make sure that you are listening to your customer and responding on the same channel and taking that information to different channels so that other customers can see you are committed to engagement. Once you gain awareness it is necessary to give potential advocates a place to show their appreciation thus completing the circle and starting it up again at the same time.

5. Find a good partner

Small to midsize companies often lack the resources to truly take advantage of social media campaigns. It is a full time job and just getting up to speed can take a while. Time is not on the side of most start-ups, small businesses and mid-sized companies struggling to make their mark in their respective markets.  It is important to find a partner that will take the time to understand your needs, your brand and your abilities to take on tasks. You know your business better than anyone else. When looking for a partner it is important to find and interview agencies that have worked within your industry. They should not only present great strategies to elevate your brand, but also look at weaknesses that can hold your brand back. One of the first places to look is your website.

All roads lead back to your online digital presence. It is your door that is always open. Your 24 hour store regardless if you sell anything online. It is your brand presence that everyone that is searching and lands on your site will see and relate to the way you conduct your business.  Find a partner who is as passionate about making your business succeed as you are.


*Wishbone Salad Dressing was once owned by Lipton which was part of Unilever, bought by Pinnacle in 2013 and now owned by Conagra

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