How to Build a Brand Advocacy Program
Learn how to build a Brand Advocacy program and how creating one can help you achieve your social media goals.
Word-of-mouth recommendations from customers are considered more credible than traditional company-led advertising efforts. By encouraging engaged and loyal customers to become brand advocates, organizations gain a valuable channel for sharing positive brand sentiments with a larger community.
Brand Advocacy programs should contain 4 components: Program goals, criteria for selection, a plan for onboarding, and finally, a plan for continued engagement.
First, set up the goals for your advocacy program. To do this, ask yourself how working with advocates will support social media and organizational objectives. For example if one of your business objectives is to increase hotel bookings, a supporting goal for the Advocacy program might be to leverage Advocates to get more high-quality referrals on social channels. You should also make a decision as to how many advocates your team is comfortable working with, remembering to prioritize quality over quantity. When deciding this, consider your resources and budget as well as where the target audience for your business resides.
Once you’ve identified your program goals, create criteria to identify potential advocates. To do this, first ask yourself who you are trying to influence, and who your community and prospective customers trust. Then, utilize the 3 R’s – Relevance, Reach, and Resonance – to evaluate candidates.
Relevance refers to the type of content a prospective advocate is sharing, and the type of following they currently have - both of which should be relevant to your industry and audience. Reach refers to the number of people they are able to reach through their social posts, and Resonance refers to the level of engagement they have with their audience.
A good advocate should meet all these requirements, but there may be other, more specific things you’re looking for as well, like brand affinity. As a best practice, create a checklist of criteria that will make it easy to identify strong candidates.
Once a rapport has been established with a potential advocate, reach out to gauge their interest in your advocate program and, most importantly, express to them how a more formalized relationship could benefit them.
Interested advocates should be given an intake form to sign at the start of your partnership. This form should contain any terms and conditions of your working arrangement, as well as your advocate mission and any security/NDA requirements. You should also have advocates agree to receive email communication from you. Finally, use this intake form to highlight the mutual benefits your advocates should expect from their participation.
Once you’ve onboarded your advocates, focus on keeping and growing their commitment and cultivating their enthusiasm. At the start, check in periodically to make sure your new advocate is engaged and committed. 30, 60, and 90 day check ins are a good rhythm. When they’re comfortably onboarded into the program, find ways to keep their engagement, whether it be a monthly or quarterly newsletter, an online forum for advocates to connect with each other as well as your brand, or free and exclusive perks such as beta testing, recognition, partnerships, speaking opportunities, or invitations to conferences.
Remember that advocates are people too, so make sure that when you ask them to do things for you, they are tasks which are exciting and engaging for them!