Companies spend so much time on their internal marketing and PR efforts that they often forget to leverage external methods such as brand ambassadors.
And why is this important? The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that people have the most trust in academics, experts, and “people like themselves” when it comes to discussing a company and its actions. In other words, people trust sources of information that are from outside the business.
This is probably obvious. But what is not obvious is how businesses can take advantage of this fact in their marketing and public relations. With a little strategic research, the process to find and use online ambassadors can become a lot less complicated.
Finding Your Brand Ambassadors
But what exactly is a “brand ambassador”? I described the term in a prior post as such:
If someone likes your soft drink, tennis shoe, or website, he will continue to buy the product or visit the site. However, someone who loves a brand will often attempt to sell it to his friends, family, and acquaintances – usually without even realizing it.
The following two processes can help you to narrow down your list of prospective brand ambassadors to approach. External influencers are those who mention your brand on third-party channels such as social-media networks and online forums. Internal influencers come from your own customers, clients, and online channels.
External Influencer Research
1. Monitor Online Mentions
Many different tools exist that can track mentions of your brand throughout the Internet and social media. Mention.net is one choice you may want to consider since the quality of Google Alerts has consistently declined.
First, compile an ongoing list of the people outside your company who are already talking about you regularly.
2. Analyze Online Brand Sentiment
Similar tools can also assign “sentiment” to online brand mentions and organize them by level of positivity or negativity. One example is Social Mentions.
Second, filter your list by those whose sentiments are usually or always extremely positive.
3. Rank Online Influencers
Third, sort the list in descending order by each person’s influencer “rating” – or number of followers or any other desired metric.
4. Research and Create Brand Personas
Ideally, sales and marketing teams should take the time to develop a “persona” of their average customer or the targeted decision-maker. A brief example might be “a white, 35-year-old woman who is married, has two children, lives in Manhattan, has a master’s degree, and earns $150,000 a year.” Most of the time, a company’s messaging, positioning, content, visual branding, and more will target this type of person.
Michael King has written an extensive guide to creating personas using “The Smurfs” as a frame of reference.
Fourth, highlight the people in the list who closely resemble the ideal persona (remember the earlier point that people trust those who are like themselves).
Internal Influencer Research
1. Look at Current Customers
Stephanie Frasco writes at State of Digital:
Not to be cliché or anything, but your brand ambassador looks just like you or rather your ideal customer. And often times they are already a customer. So, with that said, the first place to look is within your current customer base. These people are already familiar with your brand, product and service. Your repeat customers are probably going to be your best bet here. Clearly they like your offerings so much that they have come for seconds, thirds, or even more.
How can you find out which customers or clients really like you? The answer will depend on the context:
- Find out which customers who have bought from you for years
- Research which CEOs and other executives have e-mailed your agency to say that they really appreciate your services or have given recommendations on LinkedIn or other similar networks
2. Track Engagement on Owned Communications Channels
Your business may have an online community on Google+, a forum on your website, or some other two-way communications platforms. Browse the posts daily to see which names keep popping up.
One scalable way to perform the research that is described in the prior point is through gamification. Participants in Moz’s online community, for example, receive points from company staff and fellow participants for submitting blog posts, answering questions, and contributing quality comments. Here’s the Top 10 list that Moz could hypothetically use as a source of brand ambassadors.
Then, use the same rest of the process outlined in the first set of steps to filter and narrow down the list of brand-ambassador prospects. At the end, you should have a list of quality people from both external and internal research.
Now that you have a list of potential brand ambassadors, how should you reach out to them? Here are the next steps to take:
1. Goal Identification
Either before or after the research you conduct on potential ambassadors, your company will need to identify strategic goals: What do you want your future brand ambassadors to do? Here are a few examples:
- Repost company content on their blogs
- Follow, mention, retweet, and share company news on social networks
- Link to your business website
- Refer potential customers or clients
- Other actions as desired
2. Incentive Selection
Why should these busy people take the time to help your company? The incentives that you offer should match their needs and interests – it is the same idea as selling to customers, just in a different context. Some methods:
- Moz offers various perks to people when they reach certain levels of points and has named a select group of individuals as “Moz Associates”
- B2C consumer companies might want to send people a free box of “widgets” each week
- SaaS companies might want to give the ambassadors free use rather than charge them the monthly or annual fee
Reaching out to these people online is essentially doing a type of public relations, so it is important to use best practices somewhat akin to using Twitter for media relations. In just one example, a company executive (and not necessarily a general brand account) could send a message to a person’s e-mail or user account and also send a quick notification of the sent message via Twitter.
In the message:
- State in general with what you would like their help – since these people are not employees, you should not tell them to do anything (but check with your attorneys on the legal issues!)
- Explain the benefits to them – and include that this is an exclusive offer to them because you have appreciated their mentions of your company (be very thankful!)
- Give them the specific contact information of an appropriate executive at your company to whom they can address any questions or ideas (make them feel special!)
Your company is probably already being mentioned online by potential brand ambassadors – but with this additional, specific research and outreach, your business can receive even more exposure among their followers and readers. In short: Make them love you – and not just like you – even more.