“Brand ambassadors” seems like a relatively new term; however, they’ve been around as long as advertising and marketing itself (and even long before that). Knowingly or not, you’ve probably acted as a brand ambassador yourself when you recommended a product to a friend or was writing a glowing review for a local business.
More often than not, social media celebrities and bloggers come to mind when the term is used. However, the foremost important way to build brand ambassadorship is through brand loyalty of regular users. While they might not have a huge following, their words are probably more valuable to their closest circles.
Research shows that people tend to believe other people and review websites more than advertising copy on a company’s website. According to Nielsen (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2012/consumer-trust-in-online-social-and-mobile-advertising-grows.html), 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging with 70 percent trust level. It follows that brand ambassadors add one more channel to your marketing strategy as well as a new dimension to it: personality.
Brand ambassadors often encompass the target market, their aspirations and needs. So, spend some time identifying your brand ambassadors and nurture relationships with them.
Listen to conversations
If you haven’t started already, start listening to conversations happening around your brand online. One of the most obvious ways to do it is to read the comments below your social posts. Yet, with modern online listening technology, the possibilities are endless.
There are quite a few free and paid services you could use to tune in into conversations regarding your company. Viralheat is a great social media listening tool that provides in-depth analytics for mentions of your brand name, products, location, and competition. Mention offers a website app, Chrome app, as well as iOS and Android apps, so you can constantly monitor conversation happening about your brand online. Social Mention might be the most user-friendly option for beginners because it doesn’t require registration and presents information in a single information stream. Using Hootsuite, you can set up a stream that will aggregate all of the conversations about your brand even if they don’t tag you in it. For example, they may use a hashtag instead of @ symbol or not use your full brand name. They also might not use any hashtags whatsoever and just say “Mike’s Subs in downtown rocks!” If you set up a stream with search query “Mike’s Subs” and specify the location to match your city, you will get all of these tweets.
Now, if you get consistently negative sentiment regarding the same areas of your business (say customer service, long wait time, overall quality, etc.), that means you have to take care of these issues before you can start earning brand ambassadors.
However, if these reviews or comments are occasional and scattered, take them with a grain of salt; treat these as an individual case, not as a sign that your whole business model needs to be changed.
Look for the most engaged followers
It’s more difficult to achieve with business pages that have a large following, yet try to outline a few people who you notice on your social channels the most. I’m not talking about just likes here, your super fans are more engaged – they comment and share your posts frequently. Those are your raving fans because they show dedication and a true following of your brand. They might be already acting as brand ambassadors for you in their circles. If you reach out to them to act as your online brand ambassadors officially, they will be super happy to help you out because they will feel even more appreciated.
Watch out for bloggers
Blogger outreach is another great strategy to gain more “experienced” or “heavyweight” brand ambassadors. Do your research and find most influential and interesting bloggers in your niche; see if it makes sense to work with these bloggers. Try to go as targeted as you can. Sometimes it is better to work with bloggers who have a smaller following, but are considered a true guru in their respective niche. If you sell wine and they blog about all kinds of alcoholic drinks, your turn to shine might not happen often. Instead, focus on wine bloggers who might shine a true spotlight on your products. Besides, wine bloggers’ audience is specifically interested in wine, whereas more broad bloggers have a much more varied audience that might not necessarily be interested in your type of product.
Quality over quantity approach is very important with this strategy. Sure you can buy ads on pretty much any website, or you could find great affiliate networks that will promote your products day and night. However, if these affiliates, bloggers or other publishers didn’t build the trust with their respective audiences, your efforts will go to waste. Another thing you should examine is how many products they promote and whether they promote industry competitors. Try to find authentic publishers who have built their credibility and trust; this will warm up their audiences to your pitch as well.
Another thing to take into consideration is what type of reimbursement these bloggers work for. Some might accept product reimbursements; other bloggers only accept monetary reimbursements (and some of those are pretty hefty and specific). If a blogger already mentioned your product on their blog because they liked it (I often share links to online tools I use and like), then approaching them might be very easy and reimbursements for their mentions might be minimal.
Sometimes you just need to hire a few brand ambassadors to get the ball rolling. It’s ok. This way, you will have a full control of what gets said, where it is shared and when some information should come down. Besides, you will have professional relations with these people, so you can edit their writing before it gets published. There will be no hurt feelings either once you decide to part ways.
Sometimes your best brand ambassadors are your own employees. A lot of times, employees use company’s products already. All you need to do here is to identify employees who a) truly love the company and/or the product and b) write well. These employees can write occasional interviews and blog posts clearly disclosing that they are employed with a company; otherwise, you might run into trouble later.
When you identify and work with brand ambassadors, make sure to show your appreciation of their efforts. Especially if these people are regular people loving your products and telling your friends about it, be personable and human. Whatever approach you choose, make sure that selected brand ambassadors:
- Make sense for you industry-wise;
- Have built up credibility and following;
- Provide value to their audiences by promoting your products (otherwise no one will care for your offering even if it’s amazing).
What do you think? Do you think brand ambassadors play an important role in your marketing strategy? What approaches and tactics do you use to manage relationships with existing brand ambassadors and nurture new ones? Share in the comments section below.
Lesya Liu is a blogger at The Social Media Current, a photographer and a social media expert. Her passion lies in art and marketing (and combining the two). You can find her latest tactics advice here.