Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Utilizing the Brand Advocate

Brand advocacy has become big business in the last few years. With the increasing infatuation with celebrity, the influence of social media, and the era of “consumer power,” brand advocates have risen to become a powerful ally to the marketer.

Brand advocates are people who talk favorably about a brand and create positive word-of-mouth messages to other people. They create buzz, give support, and maintain exposure for a product or service. They are people of influence and they are able to use many different outlets to voice their reviews, opinions and thoughts on a brand.

Below are some tips that I have highlighted for finding and attracting more brand advocates. I have also included some interesting statistics from a study done by BzzAgent and the University of Rhode Island College of Business Administration on brand advocates. The complete study is summarized in an ebook titled, "A Field Guide to Brand Advocates: Practical Insights for Marketers," which can be downloaded at http://u.bzz.com/FieldGuide.

1.  Finding people of influence.
First and foremost you need to decide who and what will be most influential for your brand and what is realistic. Getting Jennifer Aniston to tweet about your homemade lip balm is probably not the right goal. You can find people of influence on many different levels to interact with your brand. A popular and respected blogger or discussion moderator for example, are good choices. The key is to find a person with a lot of influence and reach within your target audience. Brian Bond, vice president of marketing for SwarmBuilderBond says “you want to find the people who have the largest reach and the biggest influence in groups and organizations that would use your product.” Your brand has a target audience, and your advocate should too.

2. Give them something to talk about.
If you can, give your advocates product samples, event passes, discounts, etc. Experience with the product will help advocates create a more personal and meaningful review, which in turn will be shared with others. In fact, advocates are 75% more likely than average web users to share a great experience about a product. They are also three times more likely to share product information with someone they don’t know.

3.  Chatty Cathy’s on social media
Advocates thrive on the social-media frontier. They are two-and-a-half times more likely than typical web users to use social networks to meet new people, four times more likely to use discussion boards and three times more likely to blog. They’re a pretty vocal bunch. 

4.  Use the everyday advocate
Regular, satisfied consumers often have the best and most convincing reviews of a product. Re-tweet their messages, feature their comments on your Facebook page, blog and website. The everyday advocate is highly accessible to you, and trust-worthy to your consumer.

Ashley Haugen is a Gustavus Adolphus College alumna. She has had Marketing experience working with such organizations as the LOFT Literary Center, the Gustavus Marketing Department and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts.
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