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Free PR: The Value of ‘Brand Advocacy’

Everyone knows how important fresh, original content is to a brand—especially if this brand is looking to break out via social media. But content creation is a challenging job, and it tends to wear people out if they’re not used to it.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a miniature army of “advocates” ready to create honest-to-god branded content without even the promise of a freelancer’s salary? We’ve all heard about how great user generated content can be, but “brand advocacy” is a new tool in the PR/marketing arsenal. Rob Fuggetta, CEO of Zuberance—a company with the tagline “The Leaders in Brand Advocacy”–has some opinions on the matter. We recently asked him a few questions about  advocacy as a tool:

What is a “brand advocate”? 

Brand Advocates are highly satisfied customers who are willing to recommend your brand, product, or service without being paid. Many people think advocates are part of a lunatic fringe, making up maybe 1-2 percent of your customer base, which isn’t the case. Restaurant.com, for example, has identified almost a quarter of a million advocates.

How do you find and engage with these advocates?

A simple and effective way to identify your advocates is to ask them the “Ultimate Question” for customer loyalty: (On a scale of 0-10), “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends or colleagues?” Brands can energize their advocates by…giving them online tools to:

  • Rate and review products
  • Create glowing testimonials
  • Answer prospects’ questions
  • Share offers and other brand content like whitepapers, updates, etc

Once an advocate has created content, empower them to share their recommendations on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or publish their reviews on third party review sites like Amazon, TripAdvisor, or Yelp.

What is the nature of the relationship? 

Your advocates already exist. They’re already recommending your company and products to friends on Facebook, on third party review sites, face to face, etc. The opportunity brands have is to connect with these enthusiastic customers one-on-one…It’s not about marketing to your advocates; it’s marketing through and with your advocates.

How do you choose and present their content regarding your brand?

Advocate-generated content (AGC) is digital gold. Brands should leverage these recommendations by posting them on owned media channels like their website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. or even leveraging them in paid media campaigns. Another powerful way to leverage AGC is to put positive reviews or testimonials at each step in the consumer purchase path to increase conversion rates and reduce “shopping cart abandonment”. One of our software customers recently released a new version of its product. They got their advocates to write reviews about the benefits of upgrading and emailed these stories to customers that had yet to upgrade, paired with an exclusive Black Friday promotional offer. The result was a whopping 68 percent sales conversion rate–about 50 times higher than traditional online marketing conversion rates.

How can you protect the authenticity of your brand against criticisms to the effect that you are exploiting your fans or soliciting their endorsements?

In order to keep advocacy authentic, brands must steer clear from incentivizing Advocates for their recommendations. Giving them perks, swag, or cash in exchange for their endorsements is ineffective and unnecessary. Advocates recommend because they’ve had great experiences with brands and products and because they want to help their friends. In fact, people are less likely to buy a product if they find out that the recommender is being paid for the referral, according to a study by ETH Zurich.

That being said, advocates might give you a 4/5 star review or testimonial here and there, but that’s OK. A mediocre review from an advocate lends credibility and authenticity to their content.

What do we think? What kind of brands might benefit from Rob’s approach? Does the act of utilizing brand advocates require any sort of new software or strategic upgrade, or is it simply a matter of reaching out to those who happen to like what you do?

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