I was recently thinking about the best ways to cultivate a social advocate, and all I could think about: Monty Python & The Holy Grail.
When helping clients build out advocate programs, I often get asked, “How do I do this right?” What I actually hear: “How do I avoid the Gorge of Eternal Peril?’ We’ll get to that in a minute. First, back to our unladen swallow… err advocate.
African or European? What? I don't know that! Auuuuuuuugh!
Understanding the difference between an influencer and an advocate is tricky but thankfully there are some great social media monitoring tools that can show the differences. Popular Tools like Radian6 and Sysomos use an authority score to rank social media influencers, which makes it easier for marketers to track what's being said about their products and brands. These tools provide a simpler way to pinpoint the influencers who are shaping brand conversations within the social sphere. While they can rank and identify potential influencers, they’re not great at finding or cultivating true advocates.
Despite an influencer’s high authority score, perhaps they recently behaved in an un-advocate worthy way (consider the firing of celebrity chef Paula Dean from the Food Network). While this type of controversy is hard to predict, taking time to follow and review the social media posts from influencers is a good way to determine whether or not they’re a good fit.
And that… is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped
So, you’ve run a search and have a list of high-scoring influencers based on your products or industry. But the big challenge: Do you want to turn these influencers into advocates for your brand?
Get to know ‘em by seeing what they have to say. As you develop social media connections, here’s some questions to consider:
- Do they have the credibility where you need/want it?
- Do they have the domain expertise?
- Do they value the companies behind the brands (or just in it for themselves)?
- Are you willing to entrust your brand to them?
If they’re still a fit, you’ll want to foster a relationship with the influencer. Consider using a direct message (DM) if they’re following you on Twitter. If you’re not connected, re-post some of their content or message them. Then share content they might be interested in with the #hashtags they use. You can also seek to join affiliated groups on social media where the influencers might participate, or work your existing social connections for introductions (common on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook).
Stop! You must answer me these questions three…
So you’ve identified your knights, and they’re pledged to join the quest. Now you just need to avoid the infamous Gorge of Eternal Peril.
To build a relationship with an advocate, first ask yourself a few questions:
- What do you want them to do for you?
- What are you willing to do in return?
- How will you ensure to keep it real?
Here’s a few ways to engage influencers and help them become advocates for your brand:
- 1. Meet them on their turf: Know who you’re targeting.
Marketing-types might not be the best fit for influencer engagement. You might consider looping a product specialist into the conversation. And remember: continued engagement (even after marketers have moved the next product launch). Influencer relationship reps may also help sustain the good will that social media advocates can deliver over time.
- 2. Reward and Praise: Stellar advocates deserve some special treatment.
Grant your top advocates access to things that make a difference in how they feel about your company. In the Spiceworks Community, we’ve seen several top tech brands like HP, Microsoft and Symantec give IT pros an early peek at new products. Those influencers jump at the chance to provide feedback (and play a part in the products that will help them). In return, they receive public recognition for their efforts and may receive special discounts on products.
- 5… no…3. Build meaningful relationships: Keep your advocate program real.
Truly successful advocate programs are based on trust. Marketers use creative ways to motivate, reward and keep advocates engaged such as in-person meetings. Whether it’s a CEO taking time to grab lunch with an advocate or product developers inviting them on a panel at an industry conference, they keep the connection personal.
Finding your Holy Grail
No automated tool can do the job of advocate engagement – your people are your best weapon in the social media shrubbery. Whether you’re a well-known brand or a small startup, you can use social media channels to reach influencers, advocates and ultimately customers. Providing your targets value through access to the right people with rewards and recognition are the keys to turning an influencer into an advocate for your brand.
But that’s enough music for now, lads… get on with it!