Digital Influencers: Your No. 1 Brand Promoters

In part two of a series on digital influencers, this month’s column will focus on digital influencers who are already affluent to your brand. These are a group of individuals noted as advocates.

Online influence is rampant. And every brand is chasing those who can help promote and extend their brand to respective audiences who can be as high as millions or as low a few hundred. As in my last column, we spoke on the higher end of these influencers, the social promoters who have tens of thousands to millions of followers, fans, and unique monthly visits to their blogs; these are your high-end social cheerleaders who often take bartering and/or monetary help to get your brand inserted into their editorial calendar.

Today, we’ll quickly look at the other end of the spectrum – individuals who are lower in volume, but more effective in driving message resonance. The positive mark about this low-volume group is that their behaviors often translate to more clicks and actions, rather than just millions of mindless impressions that paid promoters will often drive for you.

Advocates are crucial for any brand to be successful in the digital space, and engaging with this set of social cheerleaders in some way is key for any brand to be successful. To do that, here is a quick method for engaging with these users.

Brand Advocates

Engaging consumers can be difficult, expensive, timely, and very un-rewarding. With efforts put into any paid placements, the following end up being the top four concerns of any marketing program you launch. The key point to focus on is un-rewarding. Often, in any media placement or any kind of advertisement, it becomes a one-way communication message that has no opportunity of opening up dialogue with customers and using the power of earned media.

Earned media, according to Wikipedia, refers to favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising. And in four quick points, it generates the following feelings with marketers:

  1. More trusted and credible form of content for a brand.
  2. Social media has amplified the sheer quantity and reach.
  3. Conversion rates are higher when friends refer friends.
  4. Earned media lasts.

Energetic brand consumers are vocal, opinionated, and passionate people who want to talk about your products. In order to generate this conversation, you need to activate this audience and get them talking about you. Research shows that brand advocates, people who habitually share information on the products they use, are thought leaders in their constantly expanding social circles, and their actions influence the opinions and purchase decisions of many others. Advocates can be your most effective salespeople, as long as you know how to work with them.

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*Data comes from a research study conducted by Dr. Kathleen R. Ferris-Costa, University of Rhode Island, College of Business Administration: http://ancstry.me/KiaUM0

Advocate Programs

The best way to kick-start any major advocate hunt is to start with those who are already passionate for your brand, and where is a better place than your own customer base? Consider it in the following example program:

  • Build a platform of core social promoters and create an exclusive community where you energize the advocates with key information.
  • Create special communications each week that are distributed to users via email and/or social posts in an exclusive manner, such as:
    • Exclusive marketing updates before they are released to your entire base
    • VIP announcements
    • Blogger contests, promotions, and exclusive downloads for advocates
    • Social badges (images) for users to post to their profiles and blogs, which can then be linked back to your site

After you push out an example program such as the one above, consider creating a platform that features this advocate content. This will help feature your advocates and allow you to invite more into your program more organically.

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