Social Advocates – Are they effective?

What do you know about the term Social Advocate?

Brand advocates were around long before social media was ever conceived, you may have even been one yourself at some stage. How many times have you made a purchase somewhere or had a great experience at a restaurant and then spoken about with your friends and family? I know I have done it several times over the years and if that service continues to impress, you very quickly become their biggest fan.

My car garage for example…They got me out of a very bad spot about 5 years ago where another garage has completely messed up my car. I have not been anywhere else for 5 years and every time I go there I get cups of tea and free work because I have built up their trust. I have also sent a lot of work their way in that time.

The garage that let me down however…Well lets just say they may of lots some business in that same period!

Brand advocates are extremely powerful in small circles for both positive and negative engagement. I say small circles because before the power of social was ever a thing, you were only ever spreading the word manually to a handful of people. What you can achieve on social with a single post would have taken years offline.

So how about ‘Social Advocates?’

As a huge car fan I understand how the car scene works and how powerful social media is for the brands working in this sector. I have also owned and managed very successful Facebook pages in the last 4 years and seen a number of ‘Brand Advocates’ using their online popularity to promote a product or service in a very organic way. I say organic because none of the promotion these people are doing is forced, pushed or done in a sales way. It is all very natural and, well, organic!

Typically these advocates are under 25 however it is possible to have people older with huge social followings, using it to their advantage. They have an average of around 4000 ‘friends’, post multiple times a day and ensure they are liking other posts on a regular basis to keep their name on the radar of others.

I have witnessed first hand the power of these very often, totally unsuspecting youths with a single post receiving in excess of 300 likes and untold amounts of comments and shares. Personally, at 35 I never understood why so many people were liking a post of a Fiesta on Air ride but hey, I’m old right?

The Air Ride company in question had seen an opportunity to exploit this persons popularity and offered him a free set up (Worth £3000) in exchange for his social soul. Said person was obviously ecstatic about this offer and said

“Hell Yes, I post loads anyway so why not just make sure I am posting loads of pics of my car on the new air ride and tagging this company in?”

Easy money for the social spammer, limitless organic promotion for the air ride company – everyone’s a winner! Both examples below are of people I know and both support big names in the car scene. You can see that from a single post, they are getting huge traction which when you consider they do this everyday, that’s a huge amount of targeted reach.

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In 2016, consumers are becoming more and more reliant on the words of their friends and other ‘Real People’ when it comes to making buying decisions. Paid promotion will get you so far but it is being seen more and more as false and untrustworthy. This means that having multiple brand advocates is a must for any business as they are the most powerful and reliable source of information on the web. People read reviews, they do their research, they ask questions and most of all, they listen to their friends before making a purchase.

In 2015, I used my online presence with my Facebook page to start a relationship with a local body shop. They were willing to paint my car for free in exchange for promotion on the car itself and regular mentions on the Facebook page as they knew it had a big organic reach. To this day I still promote their brand and have sent more than enough people their way to cover the cost of what they did for me last year.

How do you trust that the person will stick to their end of the bargain?

In the car scene, there is a huge amount of loyalty and honor. Very often, the goods you receive don’t even need to be free for you to start shouting about them. It is as much about feeling important as it is getting free or discounted stuff so people very often hold up their end and in addition to that, they actually enjoy doing it.

Its a feeling of value that they may not have anywhere else and because of that, they embrace it. Even when you know in your heart another product or service is slightly better, the fact that these guys have put faith in you to support their brand and offered you reductions on your favourite things…You big them up regardless!

This is great from an advertiser point of view as there will always be people that want to pull you apart for doing the smallest thing wrong. An example of this came about a year ago when I saw a post about a particular tuning specialists letting a customer down. Now for all we know, it could of been the smallest thing and this particular customer could have been extremely fussy however it could of caused some very negative social chat for the brand.

Within a minute of the post going live, the advocates had weighed in with a bombardment of abuse for the person making the complaint and support for the brand. I am sure the guy wished he had never even got out of bed that day let alone posted on Facebook!

Get this right, and your advocates will not only push your brand in a way more powerful than any paid advertising, they will also protect and defend you from unwanted attack. Keep them sweet with reductions and freebies and you will have your most effective source of promotion for as long as this person has a digital presence. Make sure your eggs are well and truly spread however and keep the youngsters coming through the system, ready to take the reigns when your captain hangs up his or her keyboard.

What are the drawbacks?

As a brand, you control the negative press by ensuring your customer service is spot on. These advocates will tolerate a small amount of let down especially if they have been with you a while however they will eventually turn if you don’t look after them. If this happens, the best you can hope for is that they go quiet. If they decide to start slamming you, guess what? The power they had as an advocate just went up by 10 as we all know misery loves company. Fortunately, this will be short lived however it will still undoubtedly damage your brand short term until the dust settles.

These people must be treated as gold star employees as they are just as important to you as the people pulling the strings in the shop, office, restaurant or where ever else you work. They hold the key to success or failure depending on how you treat them and when you understand that, you can start looking for your first advocate to recruit.

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