Six degrees of separation is the idea that everyone on Earth is only six or fewer social connections from each other.
The “friend of a friend” chain grows exponentially to reach the world’s population of 7.8 billion people.
In marketing, that could mean that if each of your employees, customers, and other stakeholders took part in promoting your brand on social media, you could reach an unimaginably huge audience.
That’s the basic concept of social media advocacy and how it leverages the immense power of social media marketing.
To learn what it is in practice, its benefits, and how to cultivate brand advocates on social media, read on to find out.
What is Social Media Advocacy?
Social media advocacy is when a brand (or any other organization) leverages the social media networks of people who are invested in its growth to grow brand awareness and extend its affinity.
In other words, social media advocacy turns dormant stakeholders and fans into active and enthusiastic advocates and promoters of the brand through social media.
Types of Brand Advocacy
The stakeholders you involve in your social media advocacy campaigns determine what kind of brand advocacy it is. There are six major categories:
1. Brand Ambassadors
Brand ambassadors used to be big celebrities and celebrated personalities.
Today, they are more likely to be micro-influencers — people with small but highly engaged followings, which makes them far more effective.
The key in brand advocacy is authenticity, which means using ambassadors that people feel they can trust.
Influencers are the most common and most effective form of brand advocacy we have seen in recent years.
Again, micro-influencers are far more effective at creating engagement and driving conversions than big names. They are also likely to be far more affordable.
3. Brand Partnerships
One of the biggest partnerships in recent years is the one between Red Bull and GoPro, which has endured since 2012.
The two different but complementary brands have driven massive engagement in all kinds of extreme sports, thus propelling their individual brands to new heights.
Similarly, even small brands can find other businesses providing complementary products or services and work with them to produce co-branded content.
The result is a synergy that produces more affinity for both brands. It can also help raise the profile of small brands when paired with a bigger one.
Co-branding opens up new markets with only half the budget or effort, a definite win-win situation.
4. Employee Advocacy
Employees are an often overlooked resource in brand marketing, yet they are people with the most intimate understanding of a brand’s products.
This relationship is priceless when it comes to advocacy marketing.
For one, when employees are vocal about a product or service, it is taken as a measure of its quality.
Secondly, in B2B marketing, the intimate knowledge of the industry and product combine to form thought leadership.
However, employees need to do this earnestly and with enthusiasm for this to be effective, which means a complete cultural change for businesses.
5. Customer Advocacy
Superfan customers are a huge driver of referral business for small brands.
They allow potential customers to see your product in action while providing honest feedback and reviews, and 88% of people trust these honest reviews as much as if they were from a trusted friend or colleague.
As one part of the original word-of-mouth advocacy, customer advocacy demonstrates the highest levels of loyalty and can result in a constant stream of revenue with almost zero budget.
In a world where only 2 out 10 people trust online ads while 92% trust direct word-of-mouth recommendations, advocacy marketing through social media is a big plus.
6. Advocacy Through Key Opinion Leaders
In highly technical industries such as engineering and healthcare, key opinion leaders are the influencers that everyone respects and listens to.
Their expert knowledge and influence mean that their recommendations are much more likely to increase a brand’s popularity and growth.
KOLs are known for driving immediate conversions and can be more promotional than influencers without turning their followers off.
Why Invest in Social Media Advocacy?
There are a few other reasons why brands should pay attention to social media advocacy:
Employee advocacy is far more effective than official channels
According to recent stats, marketing through employee advocacy has 561% greater reach when promotional messages are shared through employees’ social channels compared to official brand channels.
These posts also gain 800% more engagement and 700% greater conversion.
More importantly, 90% of B2B potential customers are likely to engage with salespeople who are perceived to be thought leaders in the industry. Who else are these but employees?
Engaging employees in brand advocacy also has fringe benefits including attracting top talent, reducing attrition rates, and increasing employee engagement.
Advocacy marketing humanizes the brand
A humanized brand is incomparable to actual humans when it comes to engagement.
A Social Toaster survey found that 76% of individuals are more likely to trust content shared by “normal people” compared to content by brands.
In addition, the survey also discovered that peer-to-peer marketing is the leading driver behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.
For small online businesses, a whopping 60% of their business comes from referrals from brand superfans and advocates.
Maximum ROI with minimal effort
A brand advocacy program on social media has a high long-term ROI, an average of 650% for every dollar invested.
That’s as effective as influencer marketing, but with much less effort.
Brands with empowered employees and happy customers will find social media advocacy to come almost naturally.
In any case, it takes little effort to get advocates to share and promote brand content that resonates with their audience and helps them grow their social networks.
How Do You Build a Solid Brand Advocacy Program?
In any healthy brand, most of the elements required to build a powerful social media advocacy campaign are already there: passionate employees, happy customers, potential brand partners, and active social media channels.
However, using these as bricks to build a sound brand advocacy program requires some fine handling.
1. Establish short and long-term goals
As with any other marketing campaign, the first step is to map out your goals and what steps you need to take to achieve them.
You have heard of SMART goals (measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound), all of which means being as specific as you can to what you want to achieve.
At this point, marketing teams will also find it convenient to identify social media platforms and specific advocates you will work with.
Whether that’s influencers on Instagram, employees on LinkedIn, or customers on Reddit, they can create a rough plan at this point and work out the details later.
2. Create personas to understand superfans
Finding superfan customers is just the first part of the process; understanding their demographics and personality is the next hurdle.
Since brands need superfans to share content with their own networks organically, the brands need to create content that resonates with these fans and their audience.
That is only possible by first creating personas based on these customers.
For example, analyzing their posts on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and seeing their engagement rates will provide valuable insights into what makes them tick.
That often means using social media analytic tools for large-scale analysis, but it can also be done manually given enough time and effort.
3. Build relationships with advocates
The third step is to nurture the brand advocates that you have identified.
Marketing teams need to reach out to those advocates who engage with or share their content and thank them, which helps them create a one-on-one connection.
As the relationship blooms, brands can also consider giving or lending their products to the advocates to review for their own channels.
This might be much more affordable in the long run than traditional advertising costs.
4. Craft consistent messaging for each brand advocate
Some brand advocates, such as employees, may be willing to promote a brand but not know how to do it.
This fear or inaction can be overcome in these simple steps:
- Empowering employees by teaching them how to craft social media content and share it on their networks.
- Teaching employees how to grow their social networks and letting them know what benefits come from doing so.
- Creating a unique, memorable campaign that draws in advocates. It can be something they care about such as climate change, or a humorous story, or something special about a brand that they will be proud to share.
- Giving specific instructions on how to share a brand story or other content. That means telling them where, when, how, and why to share the story.
5. Reward advocates
It pays to give thoughtful rewards that lend to the overall authenticity of the advocacy campaign.
Remember that paying advocates takes away the “peer” factor, but you can reward them in other creative ways.
Examples include giving advocates free or heavily discounted products, branded merchandise, access to training or conferences, among others.
In many cases, such rewards breed more social media attention.
6. Keep the conversation going
Brands need to keep the flame of brand advocacy alive by reusing and reposting content by their advocates.
This shows customers that their opinions and feedback are truly valued.
7. Use live video to share behind-the-scenes stories
One of the most authentic forms of content is behind-the-scenes videos showcasing actual employees or other brand advocates engaging with the product.
Whether that’s a factory tour hosted by a brand ambassador or short bios by employees, live video is a powerful tool that helps build incredible relationships with customers.
As we have seen, social media advocacy is a powerful tool for promoting brands because it leverages existing networks that people already trust.
Authentic and genuine participation from the advocates is necessary to make this work which, in turn, requires a long-term effort.
However, building social media advocacy is not difficult. A good plan, consistent messaging, and rewarding relationships for all parties involved are all it takes to keep the ROI flowing in.
One way to discover and nurture brand advocates is to use social media comments. Learn how to best respond to social media comments in this insightful guide!