Word of mouth is probably the most effective form of marketing there is.
The problem is, it's not exactly something you can DIY.
You usually have to rely on people to spread the word independently and organically.
But, you can nudge that process along by setting up a social media advocacy program.
You're probably familiar with the concept of influencer marketing: using popular Instagram personalities to promote your products.
In a recent blog post, Hootsuite explains how to take it a step further by creating an ongoing social media advocacy program.
You kind of need an existing community, even a small one, to get started.
But it's a great way to grow your social media presence and get a good word from people whom others tend to trust.
You can also get employees onboard as some of your initial advocates.
Here's how to get started with an advocacy program of your own.
How to set up a social media advocacy program
The key to building a strong social media advocacy program lies in leveraging your existing communities. You can do this by:
- Sourcing the right fans
- Targeting strategic influencers
- Leveraging employee evangelists
1. Plan ahead and set goals
First, you need to consider what you’re trying to achieve with your social media advocacy program. What kinds of brand advocates are you looking to build your community with? What kind of ROI are you aiming for?
Use the S.M.A.R.T goal setting program to help set the most effective goals possible. That means setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
For example, one goal could look something like this: “Create a brand advocacy program that will help grow my Twitter following by 15 percent over the next three months.” With a clear goal in mind, you can focus on working towards it as you begin getting brand advocates onboard.
Deciding to develop a brand advocacy program doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. If your brand is active on social media, then there’s a good chance your customers and fans are as well.
This community is already active, and talking about (and to) your brand.
2. Get brand advocates on board
After setting your goals, you need to find your brand advocates, recruit them to your cause, and grow excitement among them about your company, campaign, or initiative.
Be sure to develop the program around valuable opportunities and rewards for the participants. Show them how taking part in the program will benefit them.
Three core things to focus on to drive the program, including your search for the perfect participants, are:
- Effective communication
- Clear program architecture
- Professional integration
To find the best brand advocates for your social media advocacy program, you need to understand who you want to target, and ask yourself some key questions:
- What are their pain points?
- What incentives would be valuable to them?
- What are their interests?
- Who do they engage with on social media?
These are great strategies for reaching out to external advocates. But don’t forget the best brand advocates available—your own employees.
3. Turn employees into advocates
Employees can be fantastic advocates for your brand and business.
With an employee advocacy program in place, you can drastically increase the reach of your social media campaigns by using your workforce to amplify company messaging. Yet, despite these clear benefits, most companies don’t do this.
But do customers really trust people who work for your brand?
Communications marketing firm Edelman found that 52 percent of consumers see employees as very credible sources of information about a business. And, leads developed through employee social marketing convert seven times more frequently than other leads.
Employee brand advocates can significantly strengthen your social media advocacy program.
For example, you can share private information with employees that you otherwise might not promote to external brand advocates. It’s also easier to find and recruit employee advocates than external brand advocates.
You more than likely already have a stable and dependable number of employees on hand to champion your brand.
To ensure your employee advocates are with you from the start, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to sing your praises on social media.
That means giving them the tools and training, as well as incentives, they need to become valuable brand advocates.
You also need to work proactively to keep all your brand advocates—customers and employees alike—engaged and on board.
4. Keep brand advocates engaged
Your social media advocacy strategy needs to be scalable.
Before you know it, you will be challenged with keeping the hundreds, or even thousands, of brand advocates engaged and championing your brand.
You may even want to consider appointing a program lead within your organization to take on the engagement task.
Incentives are a great way to show your appreciation and celebrate your brand advocates. You can also make the experience fun—or even gamify it—by running contests or fun challenges specific to your brand advocates.
This will keep your advocates dedicated to your brand.
Another way to keep members engaged is by adding value to their experience.
Provide programs and lessons to your brand advocates, or offer them discounts on educational opportunities such as online courses or in-person meetups.
A relationship with a good brand advocate is mutually beneficial, so ensure you’re keeping up with your end of the bargain.
You can learn more about brand advocacy over at Hootsuite.