Brand Advocacy: The Most Valuable Marketing Strategy Today

Brand is a powerful thing for driving more marketing and sales results. But that should be no surprise to anyone, as powerful branding has always mattered. 

But think about how you have learned about a company. Many times it is through word of mouth, general recommendations from friends and family, or you saw it in your social media feeds from connections sharing insights. 

The last point is exactly where the concept of brand advocacy grew and became a must-have strategy for most organizations today. 

But maybe you have not heard of this term before or you aren’t sure where to begin. That’s quite alright! 

Even though this strategy has been around for a bit, it’s still a concept that is catching on with companies today. Let’s explore more about brand advocacy and how you can implement a successful strategy this year.  


Brand Advocacy: The Most Valuable Marketing Strategy Today:


Brand Advocacy Defined

Although you might be formulating an idea about brand advocacy just from my introduction, it’s better to put a complete definition together so we are all on the same page.

Brand Advocacy simply means that the people who are closest to your brand and love the product or services, will continue to show support for your brand by promoting the organization organically to new audiences.

And the people promoting and supporting your product or services are more commonly referred to as brand advocates. These are people who play a major role in word of mouth marketing and driving new business by being enthusiastic fans of what your company does. 

Who are your best brand advocates?

For most organizations, your best brand advocates will fall into one of these categories of people:

  • Executive leadership (think C-Suite, board members)
  • Company partners
  • Employees of your organization
  • Customers that use your product or services

All of these groups of people can make a valuable contributor to your company reputation, brand reach, and drive more sales. And the best brand advocates are highly active online, will have a great social reach, and represent your company in the best way possible. 

By utilizing a brand advocacy strategy, you’ll then focus on harnessing the power of your advocates to reach more people online and in-person. 

This can be done via: 

  • Social media sharing 
  • User-generated content (UGC)
  • Customer referrals
  • Online reviews

Why Brand Advocacy Matters

One of the most important reasons why brand advocacy matters is that it’s much more authentic and organic, which audiences gravitate towards more in today’s noisey digital society. 

Your brand advocates are people who believe in your brand, mission, product, and services and endorse it without being paid directly to do so. 

To potential customers who see that, it is way more genuine and there is less suspiciousness about the intentions -- knowing that these advocates are not being paid to promote. 

But beyond that, there are numerous benefits to building brand advocates and harnessing their enthusiasm for your company. 

Grows the brand visibility organically

Nothing beats authentic content and conversations when people are discovering or looking for resolutions to their challenges. Think about the number of employee advocates, customers, or partners all organically talking about the company online and the impact that will have on your brand. 

Humanizes your brand further

Although technology is accelerating to make life easier and automated, people still crave genuine human interaction. Beyond brand accounts, chatbots, or advertising -- these are real people using their authentic voices to talk about your brand. This creates empathy, personality, and more trust. 

Brand Advocates have a broader reach

Remember in the first point when I said to think back about all employees, customers, and partners that might be talking about your brand? If you choose to harness employees for example using employee advocacy software, you can extend your social reach from 3x to 10x! 

Although Adobe might have great brand reach, they still saw value in brand advocacy. The innovative software company activated over 900 Adobe employee advocates to create and share content. This extended their social media reach alone by an additional 3,000,000!

Media and publications take notice

When more people are talking about your brand online, you’ll find more media publications and news companies taking notice. This could be journalists talking about your products or services, interview opportunities about the company, and overall more awareness. 

A great example of this is Drift, who in the early days captivated attentioned via employees and customers. For a period of time during their meteoric rise, they were in the news quite often. 

Educates more people on your company

Many people who may discover your company through brand advocacy are not even close to the buying stage. But, this is a great way to educate people on what your company does, the values, and how it may address challenges they might not have thought about. More awareness and education now will equal to more sales later. 

Engaging content that isn’t from marketing

What’s cool about brand advocacy content and user-generated content is it doesn’t all read like a marketing person wrote it. People can read through marketing jargon and tight copywriting. Not to say that there is not a place for that, but the content feels more authentic and personable when it’s from a wider variety of people. 

Less time and money spent on marketing 

Although your initial brand advocacy efforts may require some time and money at first, in the long-run your company will save quite a bit. First, there can be less promotional efforts on your part when you have an army of advocates willingly doing the heavy lifting for you. Additionally, a brand advocacy platform is relatively inexpensive for the results you’ll achieve and the money you save on paid advertising. 


Stats related to the power of brand advocacy

I’m sure the above sounds good, but let’s back up the power of brand advocacy with some data points. Many of these have been done through various research and studies over the years, but take a look. 

  • 92% of online consumers trust recommendations from their social circles.
  • 75% of consumers say that word-of-mouth plays a key role in their purchasing decisions
  • Earned media (press, word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer referrals) drives 4x the brand lift as paid media. (Bazaar Voice)
  • Peer-to-peer marketing is the leading driver behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. (McKinsey)
  • 42% of people distrust messages coming directly from brands
  • 49% of marketers believe that 20-40% of their leads come from referrals. (Referral Rock)
  • 92% of global consumers trust User-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing more than advertising. (Jay Baer)
  • Millennials are 115% more influenced by word of mouth than traditional advertising. (Chatter Matters)

How Do You Build Brand Advocacy?

Before you focus all your efforts on implementing brand advocacy into your marketing and sales, your company culture and product or services need to be in top shape.

If your work culture and leadership is lacking, employees aren’t going to care to advocate on your behalf or organically engage with your brand. And if your product or services are lacking, why would customers want to go out of their way to talk about your brand? 

Granted, these items don’t happen overnight but before really dedicating time to brand advocacy make sure those areas are in a positive position. 

Tips to getting started with brand advocacy

Brand advocacy is sounding pretty awesome, isn’t it? And in today’s digital world, it’s critical for  your organization to explore and implement a strategy. 

But if you are completely new to this concept or are still learning, how do you get started? Here are some tips to set you on the right path. 

Find current brand advocates and harness their influence

98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company, according to Weber Shandwick

That means you already have employee advocates and you might not even realize it! This is also the same with customers, which might be more obvious as you are searching online.

Look for people who already are

  • Liking, commenting, or sharing about your company online
  • Leave reviews, whether employees or customers 
  • Are consistently rallying others around the brand to get involved

You can use social listening and company surveys to discover these advocates. But the goal is to connect with them, see if you can collaborate more, and see if they will help lead advocacy initiatives. 


Figure out your goals for a brand advocacy strategy

With any sort of planning or strategy, there should always be some goals in mind. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose focus and not have a driving force to build a successful strategy. 

This means you want to figure out what you’ll be measuring for success, what KPIs might be important, and what you want a program and strategy to accomplish. The beauty of brand advocacy is it can be used for multiple purposes in marketing and sales or very specific areas.

Some things you might want to monitor and measure include:

  • Brand awareness and mentions
  • The effect on lead generation
  • Overall employee engagement
  • The impact on website traffic
  • Specific post engagement
  • Opportunities generated 

Identify what tools and budgets might be needed to get started

In the long run, brand advocacy will save your company time and money when it comes to marketing. Many of your employees and customers will do the marketing for you, allowing your team to focus on other areas and let the advocacy engine run strong. 

But to maximize results and streamline efforts, there will be tools and some budget needed that can help ignite your efforts. 

As you think about your brand advocacy strategy, what sort of tools or products will make this process easier and organized?

If you are getting employees involved in creating and sharing content, then an employee advocacy tool will become crucial. Some of these tools can also help with social listening and engagement, too. 

And if you are looking to harness customers and reward them, you might want to look at customer advocacy tools or loyalty programs that will fuel your brand advocates. 

Whether you go with both tools or prefer one over the other, you’ll begin to see a massive ROI, both monetarily and in time spent. 


Gain executive support and buy-in 

Typically with any company initiative, having executive buy-in and support can make all the difference when it comes to success. 

When your company leaders value brand advocacy and truly get the impact, more people are enthused about it and more effort is put into the strategy. 

This ensures that if you or other colleagues are leading the advocacy initiatives, they feel supported and inclined to put forth time into making it work. 

Additionally, executives help guide work culture and the way products or services are handled -- which can make or break brand advocacy.  

Employees look towards their executive leaders for guidance and will be more inclined to advocate about their work and company, too. 

Some of the best companies with strong brand advocates and fans are those with executives who are also socially active and spend time working on the culture, products, and services. 

So before diving into brand advocacy, ensure executives support this mission and see how much value there is before really drumming up your program. 


Incentivize user-generated content and reviews to fuel results

Naturally, the goal of brand advocacy is to grow authentic and organic reach. And your advocates are generally sharing and recommending your company without expecting anything in return for their efforts. 

But by incentivizing and rewarding, you can empower those relationships further and start engaging other potential advocates. Showing appreciation and how it benefits them, will yield much more enthusiasm and results. 

This doesn’t mean enticing with money or gift cards, but can be simply giving the person a shout out on social media, reposting their content, offering discounts on products, or free company swag. 

When employees are your advocates, make it clear that you aren’t forcing them to get involved but show them what’s in it for them. By employees being active they can grow their own networks, expand their professional growth, and even be recognized by the company in various ways. 


Brand Advocacy Examples

Now that you have all you need to succeed in brand advocacy, you might wonder what other companies are doing this well. If you are active on social media at all, then you probably have a few organizations in mind already that are crushing brand advocacy. 

But if you are looking for some inspiration, here are a few standout organizations who’ve mastered brand advocacy. 

Drift

I mentioned Drift earlier, but also wanted to showcase an example of their brand advocacy at work. Not only are employees all advocating, creating, and sharing -- but so are their customers. 


Gong

The revenue intelligence platform is hard to miss online, between their customers sharing how it’s helped their sales to the employees excitedly talking about the company. Gong may have one of the strongest brand advocacy strategies currently out there. 


T-mobile

The telecommunications giant thrives on their customers and employees, which shows when you look online or on social media. Although this post was reshared from the official T-Mobile account, you can see a customer that posted about the company online. More brand advocacy for the win. 

Want to learn how Dell built an employee-driven social program and increased their brand advocacy through employees? Get details into their program, strategy, and tips to build your own successful program. Download your copy of the Dell case study to learn more. 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd Kunsman is the Director of Marketing at EveryoneSocial, an employee advocacy platform that keeps employees informed, creating, and sharing content — wherever they are working. In his spare time, he also runs a growing personal finance website called Invested Wallet. He's been quoted and featured in numerous publications for marketing, finances, and investing like Business Insider, CNBC, Time, and others. And when he's not nerding out to marketing or personal finance, you can find him adventuring outdoors and exploring national parks.

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