The only place I can buy shoes in my size is the United States of America. Sounds crazy, I know, but we don’t have large-size shoes in stores back home in India. But what do large shoes have to do with your social media brand-advocacy program? Everything!
Brand advocates and social media
Do social media and brand advocacy sound like strange bedfellows? Well, they’re not. Being social involves engaging with customers across a huge number of channels — using which networks your customers favor. Social proof causes people to find a third-party independent advocate much more credible than an official company representative. That’s the reason why you and I take the time to read a review on sites like Amazon by complete strangers and tend to believe the unknown reviewer.
However, it’s difficult for any organization to manage this on their own, considering the limited resources, the volume of conversations and the myriad social channels out there. But brand advocates — your raving fans, brand defenders and evangelists — can help amplify your voice across the social networks. A social media program without a brand-advocacy component is missing a crucial ingredient.
The problem with brand-advocacy programs
There are very few successful brand-advocacy programs. I know it sounds like a strange contradiction, considering what I just said about social media and brand advocates, but most brand-advocacy programs are challenged with low participation and quite a few are lying dormant after the initial euphoria of signing up the first few brand advocates. Why? There are multiple reasons why this could happen. I’m going to talk about the segmentation challenge, as it’s the most important from the brand advocate’s point of view.
What do shoes have to do with it?
Segmentation is the solution. Segmentation is the act of creating a product which is relevant to a particular person or target profile. You might have one core product (shoes), but you need to produce it in different sizes, targeting the differently sized feet of your customers.
Yawn! How does segmenting help my brand-advocacy program?
There are different kinds of advocates who do different activities: promote, review, comment, rate or share content with others. If you want to be relevant to these different groups of advocates, you need to segment your program to help them do those activities easily.
What other advantages does segmenting bring to your brand-advocacy program?
1. Increase the relevance of your content. Have you ever received mail or branded content that is just not relevant to you? Raise your hand if you have (Hint, hint: the way to do that virtually is to add your comment below.) Well, as soon as you begin to think about the various kinds of people who comprise your brand advocates, you can make your content more targeted and relevant.
2. Ensure your messages are well-received. I tend to pay more attention, retain and recollect information better when it is specially tailored to my tastes and requirements. Most of the general stuff I read I tend to forget very soon. Segmentation reduces the volume of content which I receive and read and hence I pay more attention to the content I do receive.
What are the disadvantages of not segmenting your brand-advocacy program?
Let me share an example: You receive introductory information from a brand about a product you already use. Then the brand keeps sending you introductory information, instead of moving on to best-practices and new ideas and add-ons to help you leverage the product further. What would happen very shortly? You’d tune out. You’d tend to ignore the messages, right? When you don’t segment your brand-advocacy program, you tend to alienate even your most faithful brand advocates, because it never evolves.
Can you ever have too much segmentation?
Segmentation is an on-going process, not a one-time activity. For example, imagine you’re an enterprise with a number of products. You might initially segment your brand advocates based on the specific products they use or talk about. Next, you might segment based on the kind of activity they do: some might be blog writers, some might be active on social channels, some might be regularly speaking at conferences and meetings. Should one further segment based on the volume of speaking, sharing a person does? What do you think?
What to do when you’re unsure of your segmentation strategy?
Turn around the problem, ask your brand advocates, or even better see the kinds of questions they are asking support for, see what the popular articles or discussions are about around your products to identify the top segments. Listening on social media channels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, as well as various online forums and blogs enable you to understand your brand advocate and customer needs and get ideas on how to segment your brand-advocacy program.
An example: Microsoft has a large number of brand-advocacy programs. They have brand advocates who write blogs, who support customers on various social channels, etc. One of their programs is called the MVP (Most Valuable Professional) program. Microsoft segments the brand advocates in their MVP program based on the products the brand advocates specialize in. Further, they have different programs based on whether they are targeting students and professionals. They even have segmentation based on reach versus depth activities the brand advocates do. They also have segmentation based on the kinds of activities the brand advocates do. For example, they have a large brand-advocate base called Community Contributors, who help in supporting other customers via online forums.
So what now?
Remember: One shoe doesn’t fit all; you can’t build a program focused on just one shoe size. People are people, and they have different needs and do different activities. Your brand advocates do a variety of activities on various social channels. Your brand-advocate program can increase its relevance by ensuring that it is properly segmented to meet the needs of its brand advocates.
If you’ve found this interesting and have ideas on segmenting your brand-advocate program, please do share in the comments below, and I’d be happy to chat and possibly help you think through your ideas. Additionally, join the Brand Advocacy community on LinkedIn to have discussions with your peers.
About the Author: Sanjay Shetty is the founder of Communities R Us Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd. It helps organizations convert customers into Brand Advocates. Sanjay has been the president of INETA APAC, a nonprofit, supporting technology communities for more than nine years. He is also a honorary Microsoft Regional Director for 15 years. He blogs at Community Connect.
(All images used in the post are courtesy: VizCraft)