Almost without fail, when I have the conversation about building Social Brand Advocates and the benefits that can result – increased reach, improved sentiment, sales, ROI beyond other marketing methods, one of the immediate reactions usually involves something like “what’s in it for them? They just aren’t going to engage or share content or talk about our brand without getting something.”
This would usually be the point where I softly bang my head against the desk, perform the classic facepalm and really question my ability as an effective communicator, because it’s apparent I didn’t make my points clear.
To be clear, here are some rules about compensation and advocates:
Rule #1 – you can’t buy advocates. If you want to buy them, please stop.
Rule #2 – if you buy them, get a receipt, because they aren’t really advocates.
Rule #3 – when in doubt, refer to rule #1 and #2.
However, the cornerstone of building an advocate program is providing a full-circle relationship that provides your best fans a feeling of connection to your brand, part of an exclusive group that has a passion for your brand. Rewarding your advocates is part of the relationship, and below are a few great examples:
1) Sneak preview. Provide advocates a sneak preview of content, products, advertisements when you can. Let them see exciting things first.
2) Exclusive offers. Give advocates unique offers that show you recognize them, understand their connection and treat them as a special group with offers others cannot get access to.
3) Ask for feedback. One of the most valued parts of conversation is feeling you’ve been heard. Solicit input from your advocates on new products, new ads, new logo ideas. First, you’ll likely avoid some potential disasters. Second, you might get great ways to improve your message or image. Third, if advocates feel their opinion matters, your connection will be stronger. And finally, if you acknowledge their feedback and value, this provides an additional message that you, as a brand, actually cares – a highly prized attribute in today’s lack-of-trust world.
4) Advocate events. Eventually, if it is possible with your brand, pull your advocates outside of the social media world and into the real world. Have a special event or privileges. Have an after-hours event or provide them early access – to your store, restaurant or software.
5) Access to Leadership. Advocates want to feel both appreciated and that their input is valued. These word-of-mouth forces of good are out to shout your praises, but just like your job, you feel better if you believe your boss’ boss’ boss heard your great idea.
There are many other fun ways both online and offline to reward your Social Brand Advocates. The most important elements – make Social Brand Advocates feel both appreciated and heard. This iteration of word-of-mouth marketing provides tremendous return, but it doesn’t start or end with paying them.