Is an Advocacy Program Right for your Business?

Social media has become one of the most pervasive elements in our culture, yet there is still a struggle to find innovative ways to reach a potential audience. So what do you do when a well-defined brand, a consistent voice, and quality content is not enough? Consider an advocacy program. Advocates are individuals who are genuine fans, have direct experience, and have a long-term relationship with your brand. They can be anyone from bloggers to YouTube stars, from online personalities to friends. Businesses are realizing the power of advocates and creating advocacy programs to distinguish their brand. Many companies, such as IBM, utilize their  advocates to promote their social presence. SAP is known  for their mentor program that recognizes top advocates and connects their audience to engage with them. A successful advocacy program is identifying who the fans are and creating an incentive for them to be an influential voice that advocates for the brand. The power of social media is its ability to bring a wide range of people together and create a space where they can easily communicate. This power has business value, because product and service recommendations are common conversations on social media. Based on the Nielsen Report , 75% of users say that information found on social media influences their shopping behaviors. Furthermore, an overwhelming 92% of users agree that they trust recommendations from friends and individuals with previous brand experience as a purchasing guide. When it comes to business, brand advocates can be excellent investments. If the idea of expanding your social presence and strengthening your brand interests you, follow these four steps for creating an advocacy program: Step 1: Define your objectives. Before you commit to starting a program, consider an objective for your advocates. Objectives can include brand awareness, product or service promotion, event attendance, relationship building, thought leadership, or referrals and sales. Fidelity’s Turn Here  program focuses on connecting their employees with their consumers to build brand engagement. Cisco’s objectives  for their advocates are to share and promote company products and services on social media. Establishing an objective will help you create an effective program. Step 2: Identify your advocates. You can easily identify advocates by looking within your networks. Advocates can be found within friends, family, employees, and fans. These individuals know your brand and are already engaging with your content. Dell recruits  over 10,000 employees into their advocacy program —all of them going through training to support and promote the company’s social media objectives. You don’t have to look far to find advocates. The best ones have already found you. Step 3: Activate your advocates. After you have identified your advocates, propose a relationship. Give them an incentive to be a voice for your brand. Provide exclusive offers, sneak peeks, VIP status at events, and priority access to new products. For example, the best advocates of Sprint’s The Sprint Ninjas Employee Advocacy Program  are provided with their latest devices. The phones are theirs to keep, so long as they get to know the product and tell others about it. For many of the Sprint Ninjas, the biggest incentive to become a part of the program is keeping the phone. Build your relationship with your advocates by making them feel special. Your offers to them are exclusive and limited. Step 4: Acknowledge their efforts. Maintain a positive and consistent relationship with the individual. Recognize their work and show them that their contributions are valuable. Here at Bleu, our employees are our best advocates. They are encouraged to promote and support our company’s messages on social media. Every month, we give awards to the individuals who have made the most effort. We enjoy acknowledging our team’s efforts, and we show our gratitude by giving back. Support your advocates and they will support you in return.   Image by George Williams and Walker Fisher

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