It's good to have thousands of engaged fans, but brand advocacy is where all the fun is. Successfully engaging with influencers will surely help create a buzz. Creating a buzz will inevitably lead to expansion of the fan base. But, it would simply mean that awareness of your brand has increased. Mere awareness is not enough for driving sales. A brand's audience should be stimulated to reach for their wallets.
Social media agencies who are worth their salt do a fantastic job in building a huge fan following and spreading brand awareness. Agencies and social media teams can go a step further by creating and isolating brand advocates from within their fan base. Brand advocacy is a powerful driver of action, you see. If brands take half the effort it takes in engaging influencers and dedicate it towards creating & engaging advocates, then they will truly realize the awesomeness of social media.
Brand advocates: Who are they?
Typically, brand advocates are customers who have had a real 360 degrees experience with the brand. Not only have they been through the entire customer life cycle but also had an excellent customer service experience. It is not uncommon for such customers to defend the brand and vouch for its value offering at the drop of a hat. Why wouldn't they? These are highly satisfied customers!
Influencers may not necessarily share the same passion as brand advocates. They tend to be famous personalities like artists and sportsman or celebrity bloggers. Their motivation for promoting brands comes from their desire to either increase their audience or receive an incentive.
Brand advocates on the other hand are driven by a single motive - to help others. Most of the times they are armed with better knowledge of the brand's value proposition than an influencer. Their deep knowledge and faith others put in them is the perfect recipe for driving sales. Brand advocates do not need any incentive for recommending the brand. But appreciation shown by the brand will pay dividends for a lifetime. Often, they are limited by the size of their audience but they more than make up for it with the potency of their word-of-mouth.
Honestly, whose recommendation would you trust when buying a health insurance policy? A graying, jet setting celebrity who has earned a fat cheque for promoting a brand or a friend's positive experience with another brand while treating an ailing loved one? Word of mouth is the real currency that drives growth for many brands.
Brand Advocacy: How is it done?
The next step is to then engage the unhappy ones with a quick response. Dissatisfied customers should be looked at as assets who can be turned into advocates through superior customer service. Customers are more likely to remember a bad experience than a good one. Fast response and resolution can turn bad experiences into awesome ones. Awesome ones are rarely forgotten. A tool which facilitates Monitoring, Engagement & Publishing can give impetus to brand advocacy efforts. A fully integrated Social CRM would be like icing on the cake. Pure perfection.
The great thing about brand advocacy is that its effects last a life time. Not a bad deal when you realize that it can be done for a fraction of the amount most companies spend on advertising campaigns.