7 Steps to Building Positive Buzz Through Brand Ambassadors
Third-party testimonials have always been important, but with the advent of social media and online consumer review services, they are absolutely crucial. Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids, making it well worth your time to foster brand advocates who can “talk up” your brand to thousands of potential customers through YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Facebook posts and the like.
McKinsey & Associates estimates that two-thirds of the economy is now driven by peer recommendations, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of social media. At the same time, trust in corporate advertising and institutions in general (Washington D.C. anyone?) is sinking.
Why not create a formal brand ambassador program to give your testimonials a boost? This can be an extremely impactful strategy for any brand, particularly challenger brands trying to gain traction in a new market.
Let’s take the tire industry for example. For a brand like Michelin, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising over the years to burnish its reputation for quality and safety, a brand ambassador program may not be as critical; although I would argue that even a powerful “pull” brand like Michelin could benefit from such a program.
Let’s say, however, that you’re an Asian tire brand trying to establish yourself in the U.S. Here’s a typical scenario: A consumer makes a call to his local tire dealer asking about various brands, and the dealer recommends a brand he has not heard of. The price is great, but what about durability and safety?
The prospective tire buyer goes to the Internet to see what experiences other have had. This is where the brand ambassador program comes in. He sees comments from people he trusts (like fellow off-road enthusiasts for example). Maybe it’s a Facebook post or Tweet, or possibly a blog post or YouTube video. Whatever the platform, it’s the validation he’s looking for to move forward with the purchase.
An effective brand ambassador program does not happen by accident. Here are 7 key steps to setting up a program that will super charge word-of-mouth for your brand:
- First, put your listening ears on to find potential ambassadors. Set up Google Alerts for your product and make sure you check the “all results” box so you capture forum comments, not just media stories and blogs. Monitor your Facebook page for fan comments, search brand mentions via Twitter, and monitor popular online forums in your industry. Alert your customer service folks. Talk to your dealers. Use every possible avenue to find brand enthusiasts.
- When you find a candidate, evaluate their clout. Look at their Klout score. Do they have a lot of Facebook friends or Twitter followers? Do they blog? Are they active on Instagram? Assess the size of their audience and how their audience matches up with yours.
- Does their tone of voice jive with your brand personality? They may be too “edgy” for your brand or not edgy enough. Dig some into their background. Are there any skeletons in the closet?
- Reach out to your top candidates, and develop a formal agreement which outlines what you expect from them and what they can expect from you (i.e., free product).
- Train your ambassadors on your product’s features and benefits and brand positioning. Also provide social media training; maybe they could use some pointers on Twitter.
- When your ambassadors produce content, amplify their voice through your website, social media platforms and marketing materials.
- Stay in touch with your ambassadors on a regular basis. Talk over upcoming events and opportunities. Show them some love, and they will provide you a steady stream of valuable content.
Two words to keep in mind as you implement your program – authenticity and transparency. If your ambassadors start sounding like corporate shills, you’ve lost the all-important third-party credibility factor. Train them on your product attributes and key messages, but let them talk about your brand in their own voice. Maintaining authenticity contributes to transparency. You have nothing to hide here. These people love your product; you are just helping them spread the love!
I would love to hear from you about other tips and case studies on successful brand ambassador programs.