Building Brand Advocacy in a Virtual World

If a friend or family member personally recommends a product to you then that’s the best possible form of advertising. If you trust the opinion of someone close to you then that’s all you need to make a purchasing decision.

But with social networks this process can go a step further. Instead of telling a few friends about a great company you really like over dinner or drinks, now it is easy to tell your hundreds of friends on Facebook or Twitter. So if brands can create advocacy – loyal fans of the brand – then those fans are highly likely to tell their friends about the products they love.

This is an extremely important form of marketing. This week, Teleperformance published a new white paper focused on brand advocacy in partnership with Retail Week and we found that 85% of people who are fans of a brand will recommend those products to their friends. 18% of brand advocates have over 500 friends in their social networks so the effect of a personal recommendation online can be extremely powerful.

Caroline Higgins, head of retail insights at communications agency Hotwire, believes that brand advocates have three qualities in particular that make them special:“They have a truly emotional connection with your brand; they have a big network and they care enough to share with their friends and followers.” In a world where ad men are permanently trying to sell a dream or ideal, advocates bridge the real world and the world of the brand and can bring much needed realism to marketing communications. “Advocates are normal people who don’t go to meetings, watch focus groups or sit in brainstorms,” says Martin Smith, chief strategy officer at Cake. “They’re real people with the unpredictable quirkiness and, with it, the believability that normal people can bring to a brand.”

For most people, their emotional journey with a brand is over when they buy the product, but for advocates it is really just beginning. They want to engage with the brand, to build a relationship, they are almost evangelical when talking to friends and family about the products from a brand they love.

Working with these people can be enormously important for brands because their views are respected, but if the relationship breaks down then they have the potential to inflict a large amount of damage too. They need to be nurtured and managed so they feel that they can interact and engage with the brand – it is not sensible to ignore them.

For much more information on how to work with brand advocates take a look at our Retail Week white paper here.



Photo by Derek Gavey licensed under Creative Commons.

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