Word of mouth has always been important to brands, but it hasn’t had the widespread, palpable impact on business like it has today. As Joe Tripodi, former CMO of Coca-Cola, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Awareness is fine, but advocacy will take your business to the next level.” The days of relying solely on traditional advertising are over. People face an overwhelming amount of messaging every day. Your brand is just one of millions.
Instead of fighting alone to be heard, consider harnessing the power of influencers. Check out these statistics:
- According to a 2016 RewardStream survey, referral marketing programs have the lowest CPA but the highest ROI
- According to Hubspot’s 2016 State of Inbound report, over 50% of B2B decision makers depend on word-of-mouth referrals.
- Deloitte discovered that digital interactions influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores.
- Forrester reports that B2B marketers cite customer advocacy programs as one of the top methods for increasing retention, cross-selling, upselling, and expansion among B2B audiences.
Even without seeing the above stats, it’s kind of a no-brainer that you want positive word of mouth and online sharing by your customers. The good news is this: a Texas Tech University study found that 83 percent of satisfied customers are willing to give referrals. The bad news: that same study found that only 29 percent of customers do it. Instead of hoping that goodwill and referrals happen organically, you should consider creating a brand ambassador program.
Identify influencers for your brand ambassador program
All influencers are not created equal. Don’t get me wrong — you should appreciate everyone who takes the time to share positive reviews and information about your company. Your brand ambassador program, however, should focus on those customers and fans who have social influence with your ideal customers.
This is where buyer personas come in handy. Keep your personas in mind when searching for the answers to these questions:
- Who are your ideal customers listening to for advice?
- Who among your ideal customers has social currency?
- Where are your ideal customers and prospects spending time online?
3 tools to help you identify influencers for brand ambassadors
ClearVoice Content Studio. The ClearVoice Content Studio lets marketers quickly and easily find influencers through a simple keyword search. Type in the topic to find influencers who may be perfect for your brand ambassador program. Simply click an influencer’s profile, and you have access to authorship stats, data on total shares of their content and links to specific posts.
Tracx. Tracx helps brands analyze massive amounts of data from across the social web. With Tracx, marketers can uncover relevant engagements that drive meaningful business results. Beyond revealing who your best influencers are, Tracx can also help customers understand who those influencers are at a regional level. This can be important for international brands.
Klout. Klout doesn’t seem to get as much attention from marketers as it used to, but it’s still a useful tool for uncovering information about who is influential on topics important to you. Klout provides a list of influencers in a given subject area as well as lets you know what percentage of your social followers are interested in a topic.
Build relationships with influencers
Once you’ve identified influencers who are your ideal ambassador candidates, it’s time to start building relationships with them.
Think of this as a courtship. You aren’t going to propose on the first date. The relationship-building phase should look something like this:
- Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like them on Facebook if possible
- Take time to read and comment on their blog posts
- Share their content on your social profiles (when to do so would make sense — remember, you are striving for authentic interactions with these people)
- Demonstrate a genuine interest in who they are and what they have to say
While the ultimate goal is to put their influence to work for you, there has to be some give and take. Work on building a foundation of mutual respect.
Create influencer content and get feedback
As you develop your influencer relationships, you will also need to create content for these influencers to share. Develop ebooks, whitepapers and other content that this audience will care about — something they can, in turn, share with their followers to help build their thought leadership status.
If you really want to win over some influencers, invite them to participate in your podcast, present at your next webinar or conference, or give a quote that you can feature in an ebook or another content asset. You’ll find that featuring influencers in your content will increase the social shares, too. Who wouldn’t want to share an excellent piece of content featuring themselves as a thought leader?
Make the ask and make it easy to share
Simply hoping your brand ambassadors will share the good news about your business isn’t enough. You have to give them content they will be interested in AND ask them to share it or blog about it on their sites. There are a few ways to accomplish this:
- One-to-one outreach with influencers on email and social media
- Invitation-only ambassador groups on LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ where you share with the ambassador community at large
- Advocacy platforms such as GaggleAMP and SocialChorus (if your employees are part of your ambassador program)
- Ambassador management platforms like Influitive and Ambassador
Formalize your brand ambassador program to grow
All successful relationships have expectations that each partner strives to meet. A successful relationship with your ambassadors is no different.
Formalize your brand ambassador program and officially invite your influencers to participate. Communicate your brand’s vision and mission; and give them access to great content, sneak peeks at new service or product features, and an easy way to find and share the right messages at the right time with their audiences. It’s also important to make participation worthwhile by providing swag, freebies and recognition.
By creating a formal program, people understand expectations, have access to on-brand messaging, and are motivated by your brand’s recognition and appreciation of the value they bring to your business. This strengthens existing brand ambassador relationships and attracts interest from other influencers to your program.
Are you ready for brand ambassadors?
You know the power of word of mouth, and now you’ve got a few extra stats and resources to help you get started with a program that turns occasional word-of-mouth referrers into an organized social army. Cultivating brand ambassadors isn’t necessarily easy, but it is worthwhile. I’ll leave you with a few great examples of winning brand ambassador programs. Check them out:
- PODCAST: The Rise of the Hootsuite Ambassador Community
- ARTICLE: How to turn your employees into brand ambassadors
- ARTICLE: How Challenger Brands Use Product Ambassadors to Boost Sales
Also check out an insider’s interview with Ultimate Frisbee star-turned-influencer Brodie Smith
Brodie Smith is an Ultimate Frisbee legend and a trick shot master — and he knows a thing or two about influencer marketing, too. His social media followings are sizable — he has 1 million+ followers on Instagram and Twitter each. And his 1.8M+ subscribers on YouTube are a thing of dreams for companies looking to cultivate engagement. Learn what Brodie has to say about storytelling for brands, what makes a good influencer fit and more.
— ClearVoice (@ClearVoice) May 29, 2017