Are you struggling with being a social business? Social media has enabled unprecedented two–way connection opportunities between organizations, their customers and prospects. Today everyone wants to be a social business.
However, the pace of growth, engagement and development on social media often leads to a sense of being overwhelmed.
The challenges with being social:
- Interacting with customers — responding to customer queries in almost real-time
- The volume of conversations spread across an increasing number of blogs, forums and social media sites
- Creating content — daily posts on social networks, blog posts, guest articles
- Responding to customer queries
Despite the above-mentioned challenges, there are some companies that excel at being a social business, and they have a secret ingredient: an army of their supportive customers, or brand advocates, who are enabling them to be social.
What exactly is a brand advocate?
They are your most passionate and often most vocal customers who promote and support your brand. They even reach out and help other customers in using your products.
Brand advocates do one or more of the following activities:
- Promote the brand and its products to their networks
- Support other customers by responding to their queries
- Create content – blogging, tweeting, creating videos, etc.
- Suggest ideas for product improvement
Why do brand advocates do what they do?
Passion for the brand, the joy of helping someone else, showcasing their expertise, their need to do more, these are some of the common drivers of brand advocates.
Where else can brand advocates help?
Brand advocates help a business across various business functions:
- Innovation – Suggesting new product ideas
- Marketing and Sales – Word of mouth marketing and providing crucial third party validation of your products
- Production – Creating add-ons to enhance your products
- Testing – helping you test your products by being beta testers
- Customer Support – by helping other customers.
Brand advocates exist in every industry
Even a global multibillion-dollar corporation like Microsoft has thousands of brand advocates in their brand advocacy programs. Passionate customers who enable it to be truly social.
The above is one example of how Microsoft leverages brand advocates in one of their Brand advocacy programs, the MVP (Most Valuable Professional) program. Can you imagine the cost benefit and crucial third party validation of their products due to the involvement of these brand advocates?
More than 10 million customer queries handled by independent experts, not by their paid support staff, but by other enthusiastic customers. They similarly have other brand advocacy programs, some even in the non-professional space involving students. They have thousands of customers helping promote, support and grow Microsoft and enabling it to be a social business.
If it’s so simple why isn’t everybody doing it?
One of the biggest challenges in implementing a brand advocacy program is changing the organizational culture. If you want to control every aspect of your business and not co-create and use the help of your customers, then you’ll find it very difficult to have a successful brand advocacy program.
The second challenge is to get a framework or system to help you create a successful brand advocacy program. Just like you don’t just sit down and start creating a building. You create a plan build a framework and then put the building up. Similarly, you need to create a brand advocacy program using a framework which will help you build a program which keeps in mind your business objective and the needs of your brand advocates.
Embracing brand advocates helps reduce the difficulty of being a social business. It provides you the ability to reach and engage a larger customer base at a much cheaper cost.
Additionally, a brand advocacy program helps a business across its business functions of innovation, marketing and sales, production and customer support. A brand advocacy program is truly the crucial secret ingredient for a successful social business.
Over to you: Are you engaging your brand advocates yet? Do you have questions on engaging them? Do write in the comments below and share your thoughts and questions.
Sanjay Shetty is currently typing away furiously, putting the finishing touches on his book, the Brand Advocacy quick start guide, which covers his framework for building a brand advocacy program. He offers a great free report on “How to generate lots of content easily with brand advocates” available to his blog subscribers. Find him on Twitter @sanjayshetty and connect with him on LinkedIn.