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Creating and Maintaining On-line Advocacy

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 05 Aug, 2013
Essential Essential topic

Recognising and Rewarding Online Advocacy

advocatesEvery brand will have its Advocates and its Detractors. There’s no avoiding the fact that some online users will be negative about your brand, but this is why you must value your advocates (find out how to respond to those comments in this Smartinsights article on managing online conversations).

They will come to your defence, balance any negativity and even, in some cases, turn your detractors into new advocates for you.

So what is an Advocate? In simple terms, an Advocate is 'a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy’ or, in this case, a particular brand, service or product. We’re talking about real advocacy, not people who have been paid to talk about a brand; organic advocacy is much more valuable.

These are the people who rave in forums about your products, who tell other tweeters to use your brand or company, who blog about how much they love you. They’re your biggest fans and, chances are, if they’re bigging you up on social media, they’re doing the same in the offline world too.

Advocates can come in different forms. Some "super fans" will gush and rave about your brand in status updates or posts, to be heard by anyone who happens to be listening. There are those who will actively recommend your company should anyone be discussing a competitor or asking for recommendations.

Then there are those who will only mention you if they’re prompted to by a direct question from someone, but who will always recommend you as their product of choice when asked. And there are those who share lots of your content, acting as an Advocate for your brand, but without necessarily directly recommending you.

Although different, all these people are helping raise the profile and image of your brand, so it makes sense to recognise them and nurture those relationships.

Finding Advocates

The first step to recognising your Advocates is to find them in the first place. Most major brands will now be using some form of listening/monitoring tool and this is the perfect way to find and monitor your Advocates. If a community team runs your social media, chances are they know who your Advocates are through having spoken to them online on a regular basis; over time you begin to recognise who your fans are.

For larger brands, identifying advocacy can be slightly more tricky. With thousands of mentions a day, many of which will be positive about the brand, and a large community team dealing with them, how can you recognise your true Advocates? 

A good monitoring tool will let you see the number and type of mentions from specific authors. This means that, say, at the end of the month you can evaluate who discussed your brand most – as well as where they were discussing you, what they said and how much influence they have.

Rewarding Advocates

There are many ways of rewarding Advocates. The first, and arguably most important, step is to acknowledge them – thank them for sharing your content, reply to their tweets, comment on their posts about you, and generally let them know that you’re listening and know who they are.

For your biggest fans, you might want to offer a physical reward. At Brandwatch, we rewarded some of our biggest online fans at Christmas and Easter. We chose them based on who discussed us most (using our community team’s knowledge of our community, as well as our own tool) and who tended to share our content a lot.  We sent them a little gift – just some chocolate, a personalised gift and some merchandise – to show that we recognised and appreciated their advocacy.

Send outs like this are a relatively small cost, but show our fans that we appreciate them – thus increasing the feeling of loyalty and strengthening the relationships, and therefore increasing the likelihood that they will continue to remain Advocates of the brand.

There are numerous other ways of rewarding Advocates:

  • Share their content – if they’re sharing yours, or writing about you, then it’s a nice touch to share their content too, if appropriate for your brand
  • Giveaways and discounts – send them a gift, a voucher or offer them a discount on a new product to say thank you
  • Invite them to guest blog for you or interview them for your site – this will make them feel important, and will also demonstrate to others in the community how much you value your advocates
  • Invite them to special events or give them VIP tickets – this is a good way of making a real ‘connection’ with them in person, taking the online relationship offline too
  • Get them involved with your product - invite them to previews or beta programmes and ask them for honest advice about content, products and so on
  • Run an ‘Advocate of the week/month’ scheme - and thank them publicly. This will encourage others to get involved, as well as show your advocates that you care.

Do you have any great examples of brands rewarding advocacy, or ideas for ways brand can nurture those relationships? Let us know.

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By Expert commentator

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