From sales to advocacy – the new holy grail for social media marketers
Two great ways to spread your message across online media
Traditional models for building a sales funnel or sales pipeline would typically start with “Awareness” at the top and then, via a series of marketing and customer relationship activities, work their way down to “Sales” at the sharp end.
With the emergence of social media as a marketing tool, we would recommend extending the model a bit further to add a further measure at the bottom: “Advocacy”.
Advocacy is more difficult to achieve than sales but is rapidly emerging as the new holy grail in social media for generating loyalty, repeat purchase and converting non-users. It has become the logical end point for any sales model to aspire to. Advocacy is what inspires customers to become brand ambassadors. Identifying these brand ambassadors and channelling communications through them is one of the key challenges facing any brand that wants to build a positive presence online. And more typically this is becoming the blue print for creating a strong brand presence across all media.
Managed correctly it’s much cheaper than traditional advertising. Many studies have shown that it’s more effective in influencing new customers, and most importantly it encourages repeat purchase and reduces churn. It also helps build a long term sustainable model for your business.
The social media tools are now at our disposal to stimulate advocacy among customers, so that they too can influence additional new users to purchase and in turn become brand ambassadors themselves. It’s a very powerful marketing tool that requires a fraction of traditional marcoms spend.
How can it be achieved? Brands need to focus on leveraging their bought and owned media properties to develop their earned media space among key influencers and advocates.
There are two key drivers that can help disseminate your brand content quickly and cheaply.
- Automated content dissemination. Write strong content on an owned or bought web platform and with a single press of the button, distribute it to multiple social media sites where (if the content is compelling enough) brand ambassadors will re-publish for their audience, who in turn can broadcast to their audience, and so on.
- Content Syndication. In addition to getting content republished, it’s also possible to encourage publishers, bloggers, customers, broadcasters and other social media users to incorporate key messages about your brand content into their communications and disseminate further.
In this way, what people are saying about your brand online becomes a virtuous circle of communication.
DigitalMR believes social media research can play a pivotal role in helping brands generate and expand advocacy online. A social media research specialist can get started by helping to identify and more fully understand the influencers in your product category. Definitions of influencer profiles can then be created and if necessary segmented by type, to inform on a range of targeted communication strategies.
Some key influencers can then be invited to join the brand’s inner circle. They can provide vital input in helping design campaigns to attract other influential bloggers to the brand.
At a more developed advocacy phase the blogger outreach can involve further levels of engagement, for example through conferences, events, exhibitions, focus groups in the physical world, and of course other online community and social media research related activities.
Using advocacy as an integral part of marketing strategy has numerous benefits for a brand. It makes brands more human. Because advocates are people we trust, we are more likely to be influenced by what they say, and replicate that trust in the brand. Some brands try the short cut route through using expensive celebrity endorsements, but one “face” may not appeal to all, and their actions can sometimes run counter to key brand values.
In times of economic downturn, when budgets are tight, advocacy helps reduce marketing spend, while continuing to raise its profile. Perhaps most importantly it helps create a sustainable, high trust medium which in turn builds brand loyalty. Also, when it comes to managing a brand’s reputation, customers are much more likely to forgive a brand they know and love than one they do not.
If social media becomes a central plank of communication it can also yield valuable information, informing the tone and message for other marketing campaigns. And because social media allows far more customer interaction, you can work with your key influencers to co-create; both in generating ideas for new products and for getting valuable feedback and evaluation on shortlists of ideas to be developed.