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In today’s connected world, brand advocacy is vital. On average 32 per cent of advocates recommend 10 or more brands a year and they do this via email (57 per cent), Facebook (35 per cent) and traditional word of mouth (a whopping 92 per cent).

Brands need to create strategies and systems to generate, track and manage their brand communications effectively. There is now no option but to mobilise your customers, employees and influencers, and turn them into your highly productive and powerful sales and marketing channels.

As businesses we need to continuously promote our products with positive customer testimonials and then encourage interaction with our brands on social networks. As brand ambassadors we need to immediately address negative comments from unhappy customers – with 18-24 year olds on Facebook boasting an average of 510 friends each, it’s very easy for bad news to spread fast.

Next we need to appreciate that consumers like being rewarded. Advocates are loyal to brands with which they have a strong relationship. Research by Dr Kathleen Ferris-Costa from the University of Rhode Island found over 50 per cent of advocates appreciate incentives and rewards and that it is important for the brand to recognise their efforts.  They want to be known as a trusted agent of your brand and therefore it’s the relationship that is really important to them.

But how does one do this? First and foremost make the brand engagement fun. People love a great experience and yearn to come back for more. Make it easy for people to do business with you – a good rule of thumb is to under promise and over deliver. There’s nothing better than receiving a product a few days before you were expecting it to be delivered. Finally, show you care and take time to follow up regularly with your customers. Brand advocates like talking about your products or services so survey them from time to time or get them to vote on a new product line.

Nielsen reports in 2013 that 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when it’s recommended by an advocate. According to Social Chorus there are at least seven customer advocate archetypes including:

The Titanic Tweeter: eager to share anything and everything. Supply this group with interesting, entertaining and digestible content.

The Passionate Pilgrim: who’s just in love with your brand. Give the pilgrim a road map that helps them share great content regularly.

The Heroic Hipster: who spotted your brand first and wants the world to know it. Welcome these ‘web warriors’ into your elite and privileged network.

The Megaphone Millionaire: these are your celeb musicians, actors, entrepreneurs and political leaders who have a huge following because they’re well known and they share loudly.

The Giving Guru: who looks diligently for information, products and services that will help their friends and family members. It’s not always about your product or service – share ‘Giving Guru’ tips as well.

The Curious Curator: has a big appetite for detailed data and analytical information. They will read and click from link to link in order to collect the very best sources on a subject.

The Noiseless Ninja: is the stealthy yet influential brand advocate. They tip-toe the social streets in search of killer deals, sneaky offers and great brand secrets.

Whatever the brand advocate they are all content creators. Content marketing is the most effective way for brands to increase engagement, especially on social networks. The problem is that brand content, whether created internally or externally, is expensive, and doesn’t perform as well as trusted content.

So the answer to your content problem is to leverage advocates. Your brand advocates create content that not only performs better, but is also less expensive than professionally produced content. Dr Ferris-Costa’s survey found that brand advocates create and curate ‘more than twice’ as many communications about brands as does the average web user. They are savvy in writing meaningful content and sharing it on highly visible sites. Encourage them to share their experiences with your product, give them interesting content that’s easy to share and keep it fresh – behind the scenes videos, news, creative statistics and industry tips are all great shareable content.

For brand advocates to make a buying decision and then share their knowledge with others – especially through short posts on social media – product features are easier to understand, compare and then share with others.

Remember, consumers trust other consumers. Nowadays a customer does not have to rely on the brand itself to advertise or promote a product or service – they can easily and instantly access reliable, real-time information from their social networks, friends and forums.

About the Author

Tony Eades is Creative Director at thebrandmanager.com.au

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Tony Eades

Tony Eades

Tony Eades is the creative director of the BrandManager, a creative, marketing and communications agency based in Sydney and Perth. He is a business branding expert with more than 20 years experience in design, marketing, advertising and media production.

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