social reach

Long-term Advocacy Enhanced by Emotional Connection

One of the most valuable returns of the social media proliferation is the renewed fervor around Brand Advocacy. The truly remarkable thing about Brand Advocates is that they proactively recommend brands and products without getting paidbut if they are not getting paid, then what is their motivator for advocacy? The #1 reason Brand Advocates recommend brands and products is that they want to help others (source: “Engaging Advocates Through Search and Social Media,” comScore, Yahoo!, Dec. 2006).   In other words, there is an emotional component to their advocacy.  The emotional component is not just important for Brand Advocates and their social graph, it is also key to the marketer and brand relationship with their Brand Advocates. If you can make an emotional connection with your consumer, that will go far in building long-term advocacy.

Empathize with your consumers’ frustrations, celebrate their successes, and give them memorable experiences when they interact with or around your brand.  Show you’re human by sharing, caring, and interacting.  Ask your Advocates questions, then respond to their answers and respond every time and listen, then ask them more questions and respond again.  If you want to see what that looks like in action, follow me on twitter (@TedRubin).

There is a catch.  You actually need to CARE about your consumers, or all of the actions I just listed will yield very little, if any, emotional connection. Even though you don’t actually know or interact with many of your consumers as individuals, you still need to treat them as though you already have an emotional connection with them.  That perspective is what will encourage you, as a brand/marketer, to be even more attentive and responsive… and your consumers WILL notice and WILL love you for it.

Add the emotional connection… it will enhance your relationship and insure long-term advocacy.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Brand Advocates are People Too… Nurture that Relationship!

It is true that Brand Advocates have value in part due to the reach of their relationships within and across their social networks.  When they encourage their friends and colleagues to buy our products, our brand’s buying power increases exponentially, and it simply makes good business sense to leverage those opportunities. The risk here is that we can become so focused on our Brand Advocates’ social reach that we see them only as a means to an end (sales) and stop seeing them as people.  We might get greedy and start looking right past them to market directly to their networks, ignoring our Advocates themselves.  While that marketing method can still be somewhat effective, it costs more, it is more difficult to implement and maintain, and it is dangerous to our brand.  We cannot de-value our Advocates and expect our brands to thrive!

No matter how great a buying power their networks provide us, we still need to value our direct 1-1 relationships with our Advocates.

Research shows that Brand Advocates are more likely to repurchase after recommending brands and products:

76% percent of Brand Advocates said they were more likely to repurchase after recommending a brand or product to someone else, and 79% said they would be more likely to repurchase in the future. (source: the Harris Poll, June 2009).

In other words, with our Brand Advocates, the ROR (Return on Relationship) is high.  A strong relationship with a Brand Advocate is likely to not only increase the Word of Mouth impact, but also to increase their own likelihood of repeat purchase.   And if we continue to delight our Advocates with each of their own purchase experiences, they have even more reason to recommend our products and services to others.

Don’t get greedy and interact with your Brand Advocates just to “mobilize” them for the buying power of their networks.   They are valuable in and of themselves. Treat them that way!

Peer-to-Peer Advocacy Most Trusted but Advocacy on Social Web has Greatest Reach

When evaluating the effect of advocacy on others, it’s important to note that depending on the audience who is receiving a recommendation, the trust and reach varies. Individuals in your social network can be grouped into three segments:

Immediate social network: These are the people you have a strong relationship with; you know each other’s personality traits, tastes, and preferences. Your family, friends, and close colleagues.

Extended social network: This group consists of people that you know personally (or virtually) but to a lesser extent than your immediate social network. Your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, online community members.

Social web: These are people that you come across online but have no previous relationship with. People who read/write reviews on shopping sites like Amazon and third party review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.

An Advocate recommendation across these three distinct networks varies with the level of trust and the degree of reach associated with that recommendation. In fact, according to Nielsen, 70% of people trust consumer opinions online, while 90% trust their friends.

Take a look at the graph below. (X axis= Trust, Y axis= Reach.) As the reach of the social network increases, the level of trust decreases.

For example, I recently made a recommendation for Tony’s Pizza in San Francisco’s Little Italy district to a few of my friends (which was first recommended to me by Augie Ray.) Their pizza is absolutely delicious and very authentic, similar to pizza you can get in Italy. Though I told only these three people about Tony’s, they are great friends of mine and hence, my recommendation carries more trust.

In addition to making a recommendation to my friends offline, I wrote a review on Yelp. This recommendation can reach many more people (about 150 according to Forrester Research's Peer Influence Analysis) but since readers of the review do not personally know me (my taste, preferences, demographic, etc), they might take my review with a grain of salt.

Energizing Advocates can be a successful marketing strategy in reaching all three segments, both offline and online. When allowing Advocates to share recommendations, offers, and more, it is extremely valuable to include the ability to share to all three segments. Give your Advocates the choice to share via email (Immediate Social Network), Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn (Extended Social Network), or encourage them to post their review to third party review sites (Social Web.)

VIDEO: The Adventures of Brand Advocate Man!

It's a's a, it's BRAND ADVOCATE MAN! Watch the story of how Brand Advocate Man helped a struggling marketer energize her Advocates and drive positive Word of Mouth and sales.


Directed by: Karolyn Anderson

Edited and filmed by: Kristina Hontalas