Whether you call them advocates, ambassadors, or evangelists, a brand spokesperson can be an invaluable asset to your marketing efforts. After all, the best way to get more people into your marketing funnel is good word of mouth; especially from someone who is a thought leader in their space. Now that digital brand advocates have been around for a while, the process of brand advocacy has become somewhat formalized. In many cases, brands have essentially hired influential bloggers to tout their wares to their large followings. Many brands, including Proctor and Gamble and Disney pay thought leaders to get the word out about their products and programs.
Paid brand advocacy has become so commonplace that many of the thought leaders brands employ have forsaken the very things that made them influential in the first place in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Ideally, a thought leader’s web site, blog, Twitter feed, etc. should be filled with that person’s own thoughts and feelings. However, many advocates are now working for so many different brands that their sites have been turned into coupon clearing houses. Once upon a time a mommy blogger may have written a few entries a week on her favorite meals, work-life balance, or how to find a great babysitter. Now her entries are a coupon for Disney DVDs, a coupon for dinner at Chili’s, and a (positive) review for Pampers.
Now offering discounts and coupons certainly has a place in any marketing campaign. However, your brand advocate’s blog may not be the best place for those coupons. A really great brand advocate is not just someone who has a huge following. A great brand advocate is someone who actually spends time thinking about topics they are supposed to be a thought leader in and sharing their thoughts with her or his followers. It might sound somewhat counterintuitive but a truly great brand advocate is not just a shill for brands.
How should you as a brand marketer respond?
First and foremost, when recruiting brand advocates, make sure you are selecting influencers who do more than share coupons and sponsored posts. Pick someone who actually has something to say, and says it.
Second, and this is the scary part; let them know that they can say anything they want. If you send them a product to mention on their blog, let them know that they can be totally honest about it. If they don’t like something about your product, let them say that. By doing this, you allow them to be more credible with their followers, and your brand’s reputation will be more credible as well.