We see fans on TV all the time. Turn the channel to a football game and the camera will soon cut to screaming people with painted faces, big foam hands and jerseys with team logos. There are fans in the workplace as well, talking about the last game or comparing stats of key players. Both groups care about a particular team, but they have different levels of enthusiasm and knowledge. Just like sports teams have their fans, every brand has its advocates. Unfortunately, for most businesses, these advocates lie fallow - left to function on their own, with little support or direction. With the right program, companies can help turn them into an engine that helps to reduce costs and speed up growth.
In this series, I am going to walk through how to create an advocacy program step by step. Across these posts, I will cover the benefits of advocacy, the different types of advocates, how to identify the best advocates, how to engage advocates, great incentives, communication plans, and feedback loops. We will also review advocacy programs from a variety of companies to show what does and doesn't work. Let's start with the benefits first.
Key Benefits of Advocacy
Advocates are a foothold
When building a presence on a new platform, look for brand advocates that are already there. By engaging them early in the process, they and their friends can form part of the critical mass needed to create a vibrant community. They also have experience within that platform that they can bring to the table.
Advocates are a multiplier
When advocates comment, share, like or reply to brand content, the reach of that content grows. Advocate participation can kickstart conversations that would otherwise lay unnoticed. Their enthusiasm for a brand can be catching, encouraging others who may not have engaged to start.
Advocates are a feedback loop
Advocates are full of opinions based on a real knowledge of a brand's product or service. They really want to help make the brand even better. They want to give feedback on products, talk about new ideas, participate in betas and focus groups. They want to feel like they are making a difference and that their voice is heard. Companies can directly benefit from this in refining their offerings and achieving faster time to market.
Advocates are a support team
With their knowledge about the brand, advocates can give other community members informed and helpful responses to their questions. The global nature of social media means that advocates around the world can help provide a first responder system 24 hours a day, until the in-house support or community team can participate. Proper education of advocates can decrease overall support costs, as these initial responses can solve user issues outright. In the event of a brand emergency, advocates help remind everyone about the the brand's great points and help weather the storm
Advocates create content
Advocates are great resources for reviews, testimonials, photos and videos. Companies can provide structure and basic content and allow advocates to have fun with remixes and original pieces. Advocates can also provide guest blog posts, community introductions and articles on their own blogs.
As you can see, an advocacy program can have huge advantages for a company. The first step in developing a program is understanding the 3 types of advocates. I will cover that next time. In the meantime, have you started investigating advocacy or do you already have a plan in place? Let me know in the comments below.