Why Your Brand Should Build an Ambassador Community
Influencer marketing has been around as a form of marketing for years, more years than one would think, but only recently have we shifted to a world where being a social media influencer constitutes a full time (and more often than not well paid) job. It’s only natural that some brands will have been the “early adopters” buying into the concept, followed by the “early majority” and so on, but now it’s time for all brands to get on board and find influencers for their category, in order to create their own brand ambassador communities.
The goal? Amplified customer advocacy, aka systematised word of mouth!
Identifying these people online is now possible, and same goes for engaging with them. The web is saturated with all kinds of products and services, just waiting for the right person to discover them, and it’s the same with influencers; particularly “micro-influencers”. Micro-influencers can be more valuable to a brand than celebrity influencers, in the sense that the latter will have bigger expectations on earnings and benefits as well as limitations in what they are willing to do. Micro-influencers will be more flattered and eager to work with your brand, in a way becoming a part of your extended marketing team and contributing to your goals. The ROI of having 100 micro-influencers as brand ambassadors can be way higher than that of having 1 celebrity brand ambassador.
From a consumer’s point of view there’s also the matter of believability and whether or not you can relate to this person - the influencer/ambassador. Would you not be more convinced if you saw someone in the same cohort or demographic as you, someone your own age, with the same job, the same aspirations or likes and hobbies, promoting a product or service, rather than a celebrity whose life you know is quite different to yours?
Driving sales, albeit the ultimate goal in most cases, is not necessarily the main purpose of working with a group of brand ambassadors. Advocacy is even harder to achieve than sales, and brand ambassadors have the power to change perceptions and convert non-customers, to build a brand up, generate loyalty with other consumers, and even come to its defence in the midst of a crisis. No brand wants consumers going against it - see Nike with its recent Kaepernick ad, or Coca Cola with its 2014 Superbowl ad - , but keeping all consumers happy 100% of the time is close to impossible. So, you might ask, how can having an ambassador community be helpful when the time comes that someone is not happy with my brand and are being vocal about it online? The answer is simple: advocacy will come to the rescue! Although a few years apart, in both the above examples brand fans jumped to the opportunity to set facts straight and defend the brand from the haters - two great examples of the positive effect of negativity.
Back to identifying micro-influencers online… these people can be found for most if not all product categories and service sectors in the world that operate (or even just exist) online, all you need to know is where to look for them and how to tell them apart from the rest. What makes a person “qualify” as a micro-influencer and brand ambassador can vary depending on your brand’s values and aspirations, however, these should always be people that share your vision and have a certain online presence. Their number of followers, likes, and comments as well as the actual content they share should be taken into consideration, bearing in mind that as the number of followers increases engagement tends to decline. Once you have identified the individuals you would like to work with, most likely using advanced high accuracy text analytics, you need to start a conversation, show your appreciation, and generally work towards building a relationship with them.
When a relationship has been established you should invite your brand ambassadors to join an exclusive private online community, where you can discuss upcoming content to promote the brand, plan social media account takeovers, collaborate, and send them free samples of new products asking for their thoughts and opinions on the community. Social content can be created by the brand ambassadors and shared on the community for approval from the brand, created by the brand and shared with ambassadors on the community to in turn share with their followers on social media, or co-created by the ambassadors and the brand through various community activities. Your brand will instantly get more exposure leading to awareness and possibly new customers, better engagement and increased loyalty on social media, an overall positive online presence, and even an increase in sales; all leading to higher brand equity.
This type of strategy is much cheaper and more effective than traditional advertising, and social media is at your disposal to turn word of mouth into a mass medium.
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