Have you ever made a purchase recommended by a friend? Maybe it was a helpful nudge to stick with your decision on a new iPhone. Or perhaps you were persuaded to cross over to Android territory? Many of these choices rely on the trust we give to people around us.
Beyond our friend circles we find refuge in google searches for online reviews, visit specific forums or discover the truth on Yahoo Answers.
Underneath all those entries endorsing products are brand advocates. They are regarded as a vital form of word-of-mouth marketing because of their authentic expression towards the products they are passionate about.
As a brand you can opt into creating an exclusive community where you invite your advocates. Forging a two-way interaction with these individuals strengthens and humanizes your brand's image. How to bring out the best out of such a community can be described in its ideal life cycle with three crucial stages; Interaction, Engagement and Passion.
Getting invited in an exclusive advocate community is a rewarding feeling. It shows that a brand is willing to take you aboard their next adventures. Here the initial groundwork is laid for a trusting relationship between brand and advocates.
You being selected means you are a valuable asset to the company. What seems for a brand as just granting permission to a community is inspiring to the invitee. Herein grows a further commitment that before wasn't possible.
On the stage of the introduction to the community, there is for the first time a two-way interaction. Now your advocates are able to communicate directly with you. Brands should not overlook this point.
Sometimes it happens that an advocate starts helping out other consumers on the internet, but they don't really know whether the brand appreciates their efforts...
Not that this always matters.
One of the reasons many advocates take the time to do so is because of altruism. Nevertheless acknowledging them is a motivational basis for further brand commitment.
Interaction is only the tip of the iceberg for companies and advocates. It's the spark that lights the fire.
Ensuring your loyal fans a gateway to communicate with you is a first sign of appreciation. Their word-of-mouth marketing is incomparable to any other marketing strategy. Access to an exclusive community is a great way of getting to know each other. Bring out the best of your brand with the help of your advocates is the next challenge.
The second stage in the life cycle of an ambassadors community is engagement.
Engaging is not the same as interacting.
Interaction is where you give a tap on the shoulder as a token of appreciation.
Engagement is a fist bump that rewards good ideas and incorporates enthusiastic minds.
If you think the former suffices, than you are not harvesting the true potential of an advocate community.
Engagement is opening up the book and having others take a look.
As a brand you are reaching out by saying that these advocates are an aspect of your company's future.
By inviting members to your community you get a glimpse of what they are interested about. Being transparent in behind the scene processes and working together with them in new marketing campaigns generates a new level of brand commitment. It sets your company apart from competitors.
For advocates, it makes their invitation more meaningful. They no longer linger in the unknown. Once they become a member and are able to create an impact, they also find a purpose. On a commitment level, we can start talking about true brand loyalty. It doesn't happen often that brand advocates get a fist bump for their ideas and input.
Being called an authentic brand is the best association one could aspire to be called. Therefore, creating an engaging environment for brand advocates is a big leap in humanizing your brand. Through an advocate community you can lower the thresholds for your supports to communicate with you and continuously let them be a part of your marketing action.
Continuous engagement with your advocates gradually changes their commitment from loyalty into passion.
Your brand's relationship to your supporters is one of giving, taking but also rewarding. The first two are all about interacting and engaging while rewarding is the last step in the community life cycle.
Although the goal to produce passionate members is an end-stage, that does not mean this is the only thing you should be working towards. How to reward your brand advocates is not always a clear cut method.
Supporters of your brand react negatively towards cash prizes. They already like your brand and don't want to have the feeling of being bought off.
What drives their ongoing motivation can be compiled into three main options. The first one is altruism. Some advocates don't need an incentive because they're already convinced by your product and think others will feel the same way.
Secondly, we come back to the first stages of our life cycle, interaction and engagement. For many supporters having the ability to cooperate with your brand is already an amazing reward. Providing such a platform grows loyalty and gives members responsibility and a purpose.
The last option is 'physical rewards' that are an extension of your two-way partnership.
Sometimes, the best gift is something money can't buy.
For somebody who has admiration for your work, being able to visit the office or be a speaker at one of your events is a priceless token of appreciation. Off course rewards can also be discounted offers or before release buying options, but to create passionate advocates you have to think outside of the box.
RINSE AND REPEAT
While maintaining a vibrant advocate community you have to realize that every step in the life cycle is crucial! Brand advocates are unique spokespersons for your brand. They have an authentic way of expressing what they like about you and your products. It's invaluable how their word-of-mouth marketing generates the same level of trust we have to our friend circles.
Working together with passionate brand advocates comes through a lasting partnership.
From interaction to passion, at any point of the life cycle, it is good to be aware which effects it has on your supporters. Altruistic community members are kept passionate by a degree of interaction and appreciation of their work. Others become passionate through continuous engagement, purpose and being entrusted a responsible role. However you reward their dedication keep in mind a community is something that is stronger when it stands together. Leave behind the worrying about content management and think more towards community management.
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