One of the most effective strategies for increasing brand recognition, generating leads, closing sales, and attracting and hiring new employees is through brand advocacy. Additionally, Weber Shandwick found that 33% of workers have the potential to become brand advocates and 21% of employees within organizations were estimated to be ones. Some organizations, nevertheless, are still unsure about how to take advantage of this enormous potential.
We will discuss the value of brand advocacy as well as the best methods for planning, implementing, and overseeing a productive brand advocacy program in this blog article.
What is Brand Advocacy?
You can probably take a solid educated guess at what brand advocacy is, but it’s important for us to have a clear definition to keep everyone on the same page.
Brand Advocacy simply means that people who love your brand will continue to support your company and promote your services or products to new customers organically. Thus, helping your brand become visible to larger audiences and increase revenue without having to spend on advertising or other traditional marketing initiatives.
Now, of course, other marketing efforts like paid advertising can boost your company brand as well, but it can be seen as a compliment to your advocacy efforts. Focusing on brand strategies can help save your company advertising money. Instead of spending so much money for those paid placements, you let people handle the marketing of your brand in an organic way.
The reason it’s important to get people supporting and pushing your brand is that people generally trust recommendations and content from colleagues, family, and friends over other forms of marketing.
According to statistics, 92% of online consumers trust recommendations from their social circles. So while traditional marketing will still work on your audiences, people like and trust the familiar human touch over large or corporate companies promoting their own services or products.
Additionally, a main aspect of brand advocacy is finding the dedicated advocates of your brand and then ensuring the advocacy continues by nurturing their success.
You should be able to clearly define brand advocacy at this point, identify potential brand advocates, and understand why it matters for your company. Nevertheless, for the following reasons, brand advocacy ought to play a significant role in your company’s operations and marketing plans.
Grows the brand visibility organically – As slightly mentioned above, brand advocacy contributes to brand growth in a more natural way. Instead of spending thousands on advertising alone, you have advocates getting your company’s message out with little effort. Depending on the size of your company, this can be an exponential increase.
Shows how good your product/services are – Because people trust other people more than corporate messages, your brand becomes more valued. People trust customers over corporate leaders, and people also trust the insight from employees who share educational content, industry content, and work culture. These things combined are going to generate more business, generate interest from top talent, and more people wanting to use your organization’s product or services.
Media and publications take notice – When more people are talking about your brand, publications, and news outlets take notice. Now your company has more opportunities to get mentioned in articles or news pieces naturally. That opens your brand to even larger audiences and again boosts marketing reach.
Brand Advocates have a broader reach – Focusing on your brand advocates helps you drive more business. Here’s something that sets brand advocates apart from the crowd: advocates are 3x more likely to share brand information with someone they don’t know. (Social Media Examiner).
Frees more time for other company initiatives – When you have an army of employees and consumers constantly sharing your brand, it frees the company time to focus on other aspects of the business. Maybe more free time for marketing to try new things, executives can focus on new divisions, PR teams working less on paid placements or dealing with negative news, etc.
Yet, before you focus all your efforts on brand advocates, your company culture, product/services, and environment need to be in a good space.
- If your culture is bad, why would employees advocate on your company’s behalf?
- If your product or services are awful, why would any consumers want to share positively about your company to their networks?
Your company needs to build a trusted environment that employees are proud to share and a product that consumers love to talk about. It’s important to always remember: without your employees and customers, your business goes nowhere.
Read Also: What is Brand Extension?
Building great products, providing awesome service, and establishing an authentic work culture will make it easier for your brand to grow.
Who Can Be a Brand Advocate?
A brand advocate can be anyone who participates in brand-promotion actions and, therefore, supports your company’s growth. The 4 most common groups of brand advocates include:
- Employees: Your employees have the most knowledge about your existing products and services and therefore, can be your best brand advocates. Moreover, large organizations can reach a much wider audience just by encouraging their employees to join the advocacy programs.
- Business partners: Strong partnerships and affiliate programs can also be a great source for widening the customer base and brand awareness.
- Influencers: Influencers are famous people with a lot of followers on different online platforms such as social media. Many organizations hire influencers to help them drive more visibility and sales.
- Customers: Having customers as brand advocates can be a beneficial and influential marketing tactic. As many prospects rely on existing customers’ reviews and word-of-mouth, customer advocacy is a powerful way to attract and close new clients.
Even though it would be great to have all these groups as brand advocates, this is often very hard to achieve. Influencers may be expensive, and customers may be hard to engage to participate in brand advocacy programs.
On the other side, employees are often considered as best brand advocates when it comes to both employer and corporate branding. Launching a simple employee advocacy program in your organization can go a long way in driving better business results.
Here, it is important to understand the differences among different generations in the workplace. A survey by The Marketing Advisory Network showed a clear difference between the generations when it came to sharing information about their workplace. 81% of Millennials share information about their job, compared to 72% of Generation Z and a mere 47% of Baby Boomers.
How to Build a Successful Brand Advocacy Program
LinkedIn discovered that a company’s employees often have ten times more followers than the business does. Additionally, employees are in charge of 20% of the total interaction even if they only reshare 2% of the company’s social media posts.
For this reason, a lot of businesses and marketers are currently trying to figure out how to get their staff members and other stakeholders—like partners, contractors, and consultants—to take part in their brand advocacy initiatives. However, in order to maximize stakeholder engagement, organizations must have well-defined brand advocacy plans in place.
Let’s examine some best practices for developing, implementing, and overseeing programs that promote brands.
1. Communicate the benefits to build trust and create a sense of purpose
One of the most important prerequisites for successful brand advocacy programs is getting employees and other stakeholders’ buy-in through proper internal communications.
Marketers, who are often responsible for managing advocacy initiatives, are responsible for explaining the benefits of brand advocacy in strengthening employees’ personal brands and helping their companies as a whole.
Furthermore, linking employees’ work to a broader organizational and societal purpose helps create trust, and employees who trust their employer are twice as likely to engage in employee advocacy.
2. Define policies and train your advocates
While younger generations such as millennials and Gen Z are confident with social media, others may not be. Also, many employees may not be sure about how and what to share externally. Hence, having advocacy training and guidelines in place is important.
Organize short training sessions and internal marketing campaigns to ensure that everyone is aware of the policies, the ‘do’s and don’ts, and the goals of your brand advocacy programs.
3. Define goals, objectives and policies
Every advocacy initiative should have clear goals and objectives in order to keep employees and other stakeholders aligned. These goals vary based on the department launching the program. Whether it’s sales, marketing, or HR, the stakeholders should understand the ultimate advocacy KPIs.
Some of the specific goals and objectives your program can aim to achieve include:
- Increase company LinkedIn followers by X%
- Increase website traffic by X%
- Boost engagement on social media by X%
- Increase the number of MQLs or SQLs by X%
- Increase the number of qualified job applicants by X%
- Increase the number of Glassdoor reviews by X%
4. Create and distribute engaging internal content
The more engaging your internal content is, the more engaged your advocates will be. Today, employees don’t consume and share just any type of content. Therefore, curating engaging, fun, and relevant content is crucial for driving your advocates’ engagement in your brand advocacy programs.
Departments utilizing advocacy programs should have diverse content strategies by testing various content formats such as photos, infographics, videos, webinars, podcasts, and other formats your advocates will actually want to share.
However, many organizations still don’t have access to the right tools and employee apps that enable them to get the most of their advocacy programs.
5. Reach the right audiences
Not every piece of content you create internally is relevant to all your advocates. Therefore, you need to be conscious of your advocates’ networks when creating content you want to amplify externally. In other words, you need content localization!
Employees from different departments, in different job roles, your contractors or external partners should have access to content relevant to them. Segmenting your internal audiences is crucial for driving their continuous engagement. It also allows your advocacy program to scale to the enterprise level.
However, many organizations still don’t have the ability to target specific internal audiences. They don’t have ways to segment audiences based on their roles, departments, job functions and interests in order to ensure that the right advocates get the most relevant content.
6. Make it easy to find and share content
Another important prerequisite of every successful brand advocacy program is the ability of your employees and other partners to easily share internal content with their external networks. As today’s workplaces are highly digital, employees expect exceptional experience with the technology they use within their organizations.
The easier you make it for them to share the content on social networks, relevant groups, and forums, the bigger their engagement will be. They should be able to share your content in a matter of seconds. They should be able to easily find the content relevant to them.
This is why many organizations are now looking for advocacy solutions that enable them to create personalized news feeds where advocates have a real-time view of everything that is going on within their organizations.
7. Spot and reward your best advocates
Many brand advocacy programs also have relevant recognition programs in place. In other words, if you want to motivate your advocates to participate and make advocacy one of your core values, you should also find ways to recognize and reward them for desired behaviors and actions.
Yet, many companies don’t have ways to spot their biggest advocates and measure the impact of their engagement. Without such data, it can be impossible to create structured and well-designed advocacy recognition programs.
8. Optimize based on data and insights
In order to continuously improve and optimize your brand advocacy initiatives, you should be able to measure what works well, and what has room for improvement.
If you can’t easily identify your best advocates, understand which type of content resonates best with your internal audiences, and which social networks your audiences are most active on, it is impossible to improve and get the highest possible return on investment.
Modern employee advocacy solutions like Haiilo Share don’t only provide such data but also empower program administrators with insightful and actionable recommendations for improvement. Every single advocacy campaign that you create can be closely tied to the ultimate KPIs you are trying to achieve.
While highlighting your company’s brand is not a novel idea, brand advocacy is still a relatively new concept. Even though a large number of businesses actively participate in brand advocacy, the great majority still do not view this as a top tactic to use.
However, when creating strategies, concentrating on your company’s brand should be your first concern as it will perfectly complement your marketing initiatives. Employee and customer brand advocacy helps draw attention to your company’s brand and strengthens your brand’s relationship to your networks, both of which are beneficial to your business.
Fortunately, most businesses already have customers and staff that actively advocate on their behalf, and there are many more who would be willing to do so.