What is a brand advocate?

There's a lot of talk about brand advocates in commerce and marketing circles recently. What isn’t generally explained, however, is exactly what a brand advocate is and why you should care so much about them.

In digital marketing and social media sales, a brand advocate is a person who speaks favorably about a brand or service, and shares positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages with other people. In business terms a brand advocate is someone that can be a key to your success but isn't looking for personal compensation. Why do these advocates use social media to talk about brands? There may be many reasons but the key factor is that they want to help their connections - family, friends and business associates to make informed decisions. However it is these ‘informed’ decisions that can lead to the success and adoption of your products and services.

Because the average consumer generally trusts the recommendations of friends and family far more than that of strangers, a known brand advocate can be highly influential. It is common business practice these days for companies to invest heavily in finding and nurturing their own brand advocates - and to do everything they can to support and encourage their brand advocates social media efforts. 

Brand advocates are nothing new, but the rise of social media has dramatically amplified the impact they can have. These supporters are talking to people in new ways, which can create a significant opportunity for your team. For years, public relations firms have included brand advocacy in their marketing campaigns. In the digital age, companies with a digital presence are increasingly including brand advocacy in their consumer communications. A great presentation by LBI Group titled The Power of Brand Advocates shows how brand advocates have asserted themselves in business, political campaigns and even nonprofits.

Whether you're working on a Search Engine Optimization marketing project or overseeing any type of marketing campaign, you should always work to understand and integrate elements into your outreach that recognize and support your brand advocates. A recent eMarketer report, "Brand Advocates: Scaling Social Media Word-of-Mouth," highlights the spectacular growth of brand advocacy over the last five years and shares tips for optimizing this dynamic method.

The report's conclusion is clear - “Brand advocacy is becoming a critical part of the social media marketing mix."

Don’t confine your marketing efforts to just online content, though. A CMO Council study determined that brand loyalty was far more important to your potential brand advocates than your social media content (48 percent vs. 30 percent). What are some additional things that really get your brand advocates motivated?

 ·         Eligibility for exclusive offers (67 percent)

 ·         Interaction with other customers who share their own experiences (60 percent)

 ·         Access to games and contests (65 percent) 

As eMarketer reports, many brand advocates simply wish to see their favorite brands succeed. According to Zuberance, 38 percent of brand advocates suggest a brand about once a month, and up to 12 percent do so several times a week. As a group, they are more likely to use social media than the average consumer, and some even use branding in their online personas. Allowing your brand advocates to align their personal brands with your own can present great opportunities for your team, but you must treat your brand advocates with the proper respect and gratitude they deserve.

Brand advocates are not just about marketing your brand, they aren't sales people – they are simply people. They are product users, employees, partners, volunteers, and more - a brand advocate is anyone who has an experience with your product, likes it, and wants to tell a great story about it.  

What's critical to understand here is that every organization can develop this incredible resource for vital marketing connections.  How?  Stay tuned - we’ll talk about that in a future post!

What do you think of brand advocates? Are you actively fostering brand advocacy?