Whether your business operates out of your garage or is one of the world’s largest brands, you understand the need to spread the word about your company’s products and services. You probably have marketing and advertising initiatives in place to do exactly that. Most businesses also understand the importance of word of mouth marketing. According to Nielsen, 84% of consumers indicate they trust product and service recommendations from family, colleagues and friends1. Customer recommendations are powerful, but how do you get positive word of mouth messages?
Social media presence is key. Most companies have accounts on Facebook and Twitter; some also use Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others to collect and connect with fans. The people who follow you chose to do so; therefore, they’re already supportive of your brand. But fans are a lot like acquaintances: they don’t necessarily know you very well. Reaching out to an acquaintance when it’s time to move might or might not get you results; instead, you would probably ask good friends or relatives—the people who you are sure you can count on. Influencers and advocates can be like cheerleaders for your business: influencers can spread your message like a kind of celebrity endorsement, while advocates are those who are already circulating positive information about your brands. In this white paper, you will learn more about influencers and advocates: how to find, engage, nurture and motivate them.
First, we’ll discuss influencers. An influencer typically has an established voice on a particular subject, with a significant network of viewers, readers or followers. Influencers are professional publishers: speakers, podcasters,
analysts, thought leaders, popular bloggers, authors or journalists who have built a reputation within their niche and developed trust with their followers. They may have a traditional or video blog, a news column or a substantial
following on a social media network such as Twitter or Facebook. Influencers can be important in helping you expand your reach to those with limited or no exposure to your brand, since they can motivate by leveraging
their reputation with their followers. To begin looking for influencers, search for people who are making posts about the brands you and your competitors offer and/or fit into your brand’s lifestyle. Data science software like People Pattern can also help you determine which platforms your existing and desired audiences already use—you might
not get the results you’re looking for if your influencer posts on a network your audiences don’t use. You can also rank potential influencers by clarifying how well their content aligns with your brands. Some items to consider include how often they post, the quality of their content, their relevance to your customers and their level of audience engagement.
Once you’ve identified a list of potential influencers, it’s time to connect.
Influencers might not respond well to a cold call—think about the last time you got one. Was that experience positive for
you? Instead, you might consider building a rapport by:
• Subscribing to their content
• Reposting their content
• Learning more about the person behind the blog: likes, dislikes, values, etc.
• Making comments on their posts
• Researching their audience
• Liking, favoriting or upvoting their posts
• Mentioning them in your own posts
• Asking for their opinion in your own posts
• Offering to interview them as part of your own content strategy
Once you have a burgeoning relationship with the influencer, then reach out directly with a personalized approach: a brief
call, email or by meeting in person at an event. You’ll want to find out how much they know about your business and its
competitors, whether they think your values align and whether they’re interested in a relationship with your brand.
Let them know why they’re a good match for your brand, the kind of involvement you are looking for and the benefits of the partnership. Make your offer easy to accept—remember, there’s a difference between asking for a quick favor and a hefty time commitment.
There are a variety of ways to motivate influencers, and each person may have different expectations. For some, the possibility of increasing their awareness and credibility through partnership with your brand may be sufficient, while others might require a bit more incentive. Some ideas include:
• Providing the influencer with free product in exchange for a review
• Collaborating with the influencer at an industry event
• Involving the influencer in product development or product launch
• Praising the influencer in your own content
• Offering to improve the influencer’s resources: for example, perhaps you can lend a designer to help
refresh their blog site
• Adding links to their website or social media networks
• Participating in a joint venture
• Requesting a guest post on your own social media sites
• Providing financial compensation
Whether you do some or all of the above, don’t forget to thank your influencers for their participation, both
publicly and privately. Like every other relationship, nurturing it will help it flourish over time.
Like influencers, advocates can help you extend your reach to existing and desired audiences. Advocates may not have the large number of followers that your influencers have, but their superfan mentality and loyalty to your brand is often passionate enough that they repeatedly share positive brand experiences. Advocates can include customers, employees, partners and others who are already supporting, or are willing to support, your business and its brands. To better understand what an advocate is, think about discussions you’ve had about, say, Coke versus Pepsi or Apple versus PC. It’s likely you’ve interacted with brand advocates—or even been a brand advocate yourself—without even realizing it.
Finding advocates is similar to finding influencers. Modern data science software can provide audience insights that can lead you to the people who are already a champion for your brand. You’re likely to find advocates on a wider variety of social platforms, so be sure to include not only the obvious places like Facebook and Twitter, but also some of the less popular networks, discussion forums or even product reviews on shopping websites.
Activate and Motivate Your Advocates
Your advocates may already be motivated to support your brands because they’ve had positive experiences
with your business. You can build long-term relationships with advocates by involving them with your brand.
They likely aren’t expecting any compensation, but surprising and delighting your advocates with simple,
cost-effective rewards can go a long way. Some suggestions to build relationships with your advocates include inviting them to subscribe to an email list, Facebook page or other forum or community. From there, you can communicate with advocates as a group separate from your general audience. Most brand advocates are motivated by Stuff, Access, Power or Status (SAPS). When you learn more about your advocates, you can determine how they gravitate to various incentives.
Free stuff can be a great way to engage new advocates while serving as a gateway into other motivators. Some common ideas for giveaways include:
• A gift card or high-value coupon
• A contest for a higher value item
• Company swag
These brand advocates want to be insiders who receive treatment. You can activate these advocates by:
• Inviting them on a facility tour
• Offering a VIP experience at a company event
• Provide access to a special support line, or to specific employees
Empowering your advocates with the ability to influence your brand can be a strong motivator. Provide ways for them to feel like they’re making an impact:
• Offer a sneak peek or early access for a new product line
• Invite them to test your products and provide feedback
• Ask them to share unique ways they’ve used your products and feature those uses in upcoming content
Advocates motivated by status want to be recognized as an authority, connoisseur or expert for your brand. Some ideas to give your advocates status include:
• Create a community where advocates can interact
• Gamify loyalty with badges, leader boards or points to earn rewards
• Award special status to certain advocates
Equal and Opposite Action: Discover and Reach Out to Your Critics
It might sound counterproductive to consider reaching out to your critics. But most people don’t post about a brand or product unless they really love or really hate something. The people who criticize your brand are clearly passionate about your brand, even if it’s not the kind of passion you’re hoping for. Don’t ignore your critics! Instead of shying away, reach out to them, especially if you can get in front of a PR incident. When you take the time to understand where negative feedback is coming from and handle it gracefully, you enter into a potentially transformative conversation. After all, you might be surprised at the insights your critics can give you:
• Bug fixes
• Product design, features and improvements
• Ways to improve customer service
• Opportunities to educate customers
• Insights into how to follow up with customers
You may or may not be able to convert a critic into a customer. Regardless, your brand can benefit from demonstrating that you as a company are open to communicating with everyone in the spirit of improvement.
Now that you have a more in-depth understanding of how influencers and advocates can and should be a part of your
marketing strategy, you can begin to develop a plan for finding, activating and motivating them. Like all other marketing, you should have ways for measuring success. Keep an eye on how your influencers and advocates respond to each type of motivator, periodically reviewing what works best. Over time, you can fine-tune your strategy to continually nurture long-term advocates while re-engaging inactive advocates as well as attracting new ones.
People Pattern is a Software as a Service platform that supplies meaningful Audience Insights to the world’s biggest brands. Via semi-supervised machine-learned algorithms and natural language processing, People Pattern turns vast, messy public expression into actionable persona sets, helping brands gain an edge in the race to win, retain and serve customers.