March 4, 2014 / Point of View
Modern Brand Advocacy: Marketing at the Speed of Social Media
A brand’s most powerful, most valuable advocates don’t work for any particular company. They aren’t on the payroll, they don’t have to be managed and don’t require a special infrastructure or marketing tool to amplify their voices.
That’s the good news. The challenge is that what these people have to say is more credible than anything a brand could say about itself. And, brands can’t dictate what they say, or when or where they say it.
In this age of modern brand advocacy, marketers need these voices — people who already love a brand and are itching to tell people about it — more than ever. Modern brand advocacy means allowing this natural, honest enthusiasm to speak on a brand’s behalf.
That means creating genuine dialogue and moving at the speed of social media — a matter of minutes and hours, not days or weeks. Remember, behind every avatar is a real person waiting to be acknowledged.
Feeling a responsibility to share opinions
Picture two neighbors chatting over the back fence about their favorite brand of coffee. How quaint. And, how irrelevant to today’s hyperconnected lifestyle.
Here’s what does happen, hundreds of thousands of times a day: “Hey, tweeps, I need reccos for a tablet computer.” And this: “I just had ah.maz.ing service @AcmeCarwash. Check them out!” And, of course, this: “That’s the last flight I book through @CrappyAirline! Terrible service.”
This is a symptom of the way we live life now — online and out loud — but it’s deeper than that. Nearly three-quarters of millennials say they feel a responsibility to help friends and families make purchasing decisions, according to a recent survey.
More than numbers: It’s about influence and trust
People now turn to their foodie friend — or tweeter — for restaurant recommendations, to their pop culture–loving friend for movies, to their gearhead friend for car advice. Millennials, especially, have developed a “division of expertise.” Each person has a part to play in this ecosystem of advocacy.
A recommendation from a trusted friend is 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than is a low-impact recommendation — one from a celebrity or casual social media acquaintance. (McKinsey)
Brand advocacy doesn’t just happen
Gone are the days when marketers can just hope the people who love a brand will talk about it, or assume that anyone will hear them when they do. There is just too much noise, too many shiny objects competing for attention.
Modern brand advocacy starts with genuinely listening to the people who are already talking about your brand and what they already want, not constantly pushing out one-ways messages and asking them to pass it along.
This is how marketers find the sincere loyalists who are a natural fit for a brand’s values. Given the tools, the space and the encouragement to talk about a brand in their own way, they will — and a little reward doesn’t hurt.
Rewards can be fun and surprising, from personalized videos and games to sneak peeks and swag. But, retweets, likes and follows — the currency of social media — can be powerful rewards as well, ones that are immediate, inexpensive and easily understood. Sincere, one-on-one interaction can turn people into loyal brand advocates. Or, as they still say in kindergarten: to have a friend, be a friend.
Modern brand advocacy
Modern brands are able to anticipate and embrace change. A modern brand advocacy strategy is, too. It is nimble, guided by marketing opportunities, not by the marketing calendar.
The power of brand advocacy today lies in its immediacy: Someone has an experience, they share it, their friends react, and within hours it may be yesterday’s news.
Successful brands will be those who are listening, are already part of the conversation and are ready with rewards and encouragement for their most valuable advocates.