If you are thinking about running a Social Advocacy Program for your business, I’m sure you have some questions. Is such a program right for my business? What goes into building and maintaining a Social Advocacy Program? What are the risks? Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang recently hosted a webinar on Social Advocacy Programs. View the recording on Slideshare.
1. Why should we consider Social Advocacy Programs?
- Social Networking is the most popular online activity. This is where your customers are spending their time, but companies can’t keep up with customer dialogue. 41% of social business programs are merely reactive.
- Companies know that they aren’t always trusted. Trust is among peers. Customers trust people like themselves—other customers. Customers are often skeptical of business executives and marketers.
- The most advanced companies are the ones that leverage customers. Forward-thinking marketers are energizing their Brand Advocates to drive positive Word of Mouth, leads, and sales across industries including hospitality, health and fitness, software, and more.
2. What do Social Advocacy Programs look like? What are their characteristics?
- They consist of trusted members of the community. Advocates are enthusiastic customers who are not incentivized nor employed by the businesses they promote.
- Advocates represent brands' products and lifestyles. Advocates often embody the essence behind a brand.
- Advocates are invited into companies as key stakeholders. TurboTax’s InnerCircle program gave Advocates the opportunity to submit and vote on software ideas.
- Advocates are rewarded through recognition, access, and community. Microsoft’s MVP Program recognized Advocates by giving them the title, "MVP." The MVP Global summit, an annual conference made up of Microsoft’s most enthusiastic customers, shows how advanced these advocacy programs can get.
- Advocates may defend brands during times of crisis. The Walmart Moms Program is made up of mom (and dad) bloggers who frequently defend Walmart when the mega corp. is under heavy scrutiny.
3. What is the Social Advocacy Program tradeoff?
- Increased sales and trust that comes with less control and more risk. The Advocate marketing force is powerful, and to keep it pure and trustworthy, businesses must let go of the reigns, giving Advocates a lot of control—this is inherently risky.
4. What are the best practices for my Social Advocacy Program?
- Get ready internally. Articulate a program charter and take care of the legal side of things. For example, Advocates might need to consent to terms of agreement to show they know they won’t share revenue with the business they advocate for.
- Identify Advocates. Jeremiah suggests to create a portfolio mix aligned with program goals that might have to do with certain brands, demographics, customer lifecycles, products, lifestyles, or work styles. Another more direct way to identify Advocates is to simply ask your customers how likely they are to recommend your brand.
- Build Relationships. So many advocacy programs start with real face-to-face interactions. Fiskar’s Fiskateers lead the “United States of Fiskateers” which consisted of local craft meet-ups nationwide.
- Amplify Voices. Give your Advocates the tools to share their excitement about your brand and make it easy for them to do so. Provide them with opportunities to write reviews, create testimonials, share content, answer prospects' questions, and more.
- Foster Growth. Your Advocates crave engagement. Involve them across all your marketing initiatives as they are eager and willing to help you amplify your message.
6. What is the most important thing I need to know about Social Advocacy Programs?
- These Programs aren’t about your brand. They are about your Advocates and putting your Advocates in front of your brand is necessary to establish trust amongst your customers. Trust is the underlying mechanism at work with Social Advocacy Programs that cause sales to skyrocket.