Passionate brand advocates can provide marketing on steroids.
On a social web they boost sharing, enable crowd sourced marketing and they do it for free.
They are your online tribe of brand ambassadors….
Brand ambassadors are people, customer advocates and fans who represent and talk about your brand with passion. If they are also passionate about your brand then that can provide powerful crowd sourced marketing that can amplify brand awareness.
Because they love your products and services…
You should make sure that they have conversations in front of as many potential customers as possible.
Bigger can be better.
Those conversations can be offline and online. The social web has made the online role more powerful and sometimes even viral.
When you need an authentic promotional boost, you need to recognize and leverage your brand ambassadors. This can be done with visual content marketing that includes incentives, tools and technology that can multiply your brand awareness.
People like to buy from people
In the past, businesses have enlisted logos, symbols, key colours and slogans to build their brand awareness. However, with the instant gratification demands of Gen Y and the “always on” expectations of Gen Z, there is so much more to successful brand marketing than a catchy jingle.
User-generated content, which predominantly includes photos, videos and tweets, is the most powerful tool you can use to harness and maximize the influence of your brand ambassadors. By leveraging the wealth of visual content your brand ambassadors are generating, you can transform a simple hashtag into a digital “call to arms”.
Traditional brand ambassadors
Until recently, brand ambassadors have largely been celebrities who were paid to endorse a brand. The formula is simple- get someone with a public profile to wear, be photographed with or mention your product, and a spike in sales should follow.
Celebrities like Kate Middleton and Emma Watson can send retail sites into overdrive as the masses scout for certain covetable items. The Dutchess’ $50 (USD) black-and-white spotted maternity dress sold out on ASOS’s site only minutes after she was published wearing it.
Emma Watson increased the scarf sales of Crumpet, a British knitwear company, by 62 percent in just three weeks after being snapped wearing one of their designs.
But what about if you are a smaller business, who cannot afford to shell out for royalty, or even C-grade celeb?
Without blowing the whole year’s marketing budget on a five minute celebrity endorsement, you can transform your consumers into powerful and relatable brand ambassadors through the influence of visual content.
Fans love talking about brands they love
Becoming a brand ambassador is often an accidental outcome for many consumers in today’s digital era, whose natural instinct it is to collect, curate and share their experiences. It is up to you to decide how to market your business with your brand ambassadors’ visual content.
Brand ambassadors espouse the brand value you guarantee to deliver to your customers. Your job is to then help them find others like them, offering them a platform where their needs are placed front and centre. With today’s consumers more inclined than ever to collaborate, you cannot afford to not have their voice designed into every phase of your business’ functions.
Let them sell your products
Do you remember Avon?
The direct-selling cosmetic brand Avon operates almost entirely on the basis of brand ambassadors. To buy their products or even gain access to them, you need to know a brand representative.
While many companies are unlikely to adopt this exact business model, we can learn a great deal from this style of marketing.This type of marketing is incredibly effective because the sales message does not come from a corporation, it comes from family, friends or co-workers; people we trust.
According to a recent Nielsen survey, 84 percent of those surveyed ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ take action based on personal recommendations. Further still, 70 percent said they took action because they followed someone’s recommendation online.
A candid endorsement from people who do not directly represent or work for your brand is truly valuable among your potential consumers and future fans. A genuine recommendation from a friend instills not only confidence is your brand but confidence in the consumer’s decision to pick your brand over one of your competitors.
In today’s noisy and overcrowded marketplace, you need to be nimble and responsive to consumers’ needs. You need to motivate your consumers to design not only your product but your brand’s message with you.
Rather than seeing your advertising strategy as a one-way street, create an environment where your consumers want to talk to you, and even better still, want to talk to others about you. What better way to get the conversation started than by leveraging your brand ambassador’s visual content. Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words.
Excite your ambassadors
According to VisionCritical, 43 percent of social media users have purchased a product after ‘Sharing’ or ‘Favoriting’ it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Whether it is the trend-setters or trend-buckers who characterize your target market, visual content is a hard to ignore medium through which your advocates are already spreading your brand’s message.
In order to excite your potential brand ambassadors, you need to create a campaign which will drive their desire to share with friends, followers and onlookers.
Campaigns can start with simply ‘Liking’ or ‘Following’, usually in exchange for new product updates and competition announcements. You can then prompt your consumers to share photos, statuses and videos associated with a your brand’s keywords or hashtags through a ‘call to action’, prize incentives or instant rewards. Further still, have your customers upload a photo of them redeeming their prize or enjoying their discount across their social networks while tagging your company or using your official hashtag.
With user-generated visual content becoming more authentic and more trusted than any corporate content, it is time to place your brand in the background and your consumers’ real-time experiences in the foreground.
3 practical tips on how to market with visual content
1. Offer Discounts and Prizes
MarketForce reports that 79 per cent of people say their primary reason for ‘Liking’ a company’s Facebook page is to receive discounts, with a further 81 percent saying they are influenced by what their friends share on social media.
By routinely offering discounts and promotions on your social media channels in exchange for ‘Liking’, ‘Sharing’ or uploading, your brand will grow its reach ten-fold via a series of mouse clicks.
Make it easy for your consumers to share their involvement with others – both online and offline. Promote relevant hashtags and reach out to thank those that participate in the contest will transform your consumers’ entries into unique, memorable brand engagements.
Gatorade’s ‘G Challenges’
The ‘G Challenges’ campaign run by Gatorade generated impressive results. With an AFL grand final weekend for four up for grabs, the campaign gained significant traction within the first few hours of launching. Gatorade asked their customers to film, tag and share a series of AFL footy challenges over the course of six weeks. Entries came in thick and fast.
A selection of these entries were then republished by Gatorade across their social media channels and rewarded with weekly prize packs, sparking positive consumer conversations across Facebook and Instagram. By employing a simple marketing strategy, Gatorade were able to transform the AFL amateur on the local playing field into an online brand ambassador via one simple upload.
2. Reward Them With Recognition
Developing a close relationship with your brand ambassadors is a vital ingredient to a winning marketing strategy. Today’s consumers crave self-validation and it is your job to leverage this need.
Identifying key influencers and “shoulder tapping” them with recognition will inspire others to follow suit. If they ‘Share’ a photo, thank them for it. If they leave a comment, reply to it. Develop a fun and reciprocal relationship between your brand and your consumers.
If you validate their efforts, you’ll encourage consistent invaluable user-generated content which can then be republished and repurposed to grow your reach and increase your engagement.
The #superstyle campaign run by New Zealand fashion retailer Superette is a great example of identifying, recognizing and leveraging keen brand ambassadors. Superette’s followers used the hashtag #Superstyle on Instagram to see their photo added to an online gallery and social community on the company’s website.
The beauty of this campaign is in the simplicity and impact of user-generated content. Superette runs the social hubas an ‘always on’ activity, constantly collecting up-to-date and visually stunning content. They launched the social hub with a contest, with the winners announced on Superette’s blog.
Recognizing and rewarding your contestants’ active participation is a key step to maximizing reach. Help them to help you. Upgrade your consumers into brand ambassadors with incentives, such as being showcased on your site’s social hub, and they will spread the gospel of your brand in real time, to real people, to give you real reach.
3. Provide a Platform to Connect
With the organic reach of Facebook decreasing, it is imperative for businesses today to find alternative ways to engage with their consumers.
Providing an attractive and user-friendly platform, which looks and feels like part of your website, is a no-brainer. Forget static images and staged brand advertising, with the right tools you can build your own media channel using user-generated content. In turn, you’ll attract more visitors to your website, have them stay longer, increase your conversion rate and grow your email database.
Again, it is a no-brainer.
One business that is choosing to bring their content home is Jucy Rentals. A car hire and rental specialist with locations across the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Jucy have chosen to own the relationship they have with their customers.
Collecting content from promotional hashtags and direct upload, Jucy’s dedicated social hub has become a place for globetrotters and intrepid travellers alike to share their inspirations and be inspired. Priceless images of Jucy campervans parked up next to world landmarks and against breathtaking vistas are uploaded every single day to the platform.
By repurposing this content across their official channels and e-commerce pages, Jucy have developed a fantastic strategy for encouraging brand ambassadorship by placing themselves at the centre of their customers’ conversations.
The media landscape has changed and there is a huge opportunity to grasp. With the right tools and technology, you can empower your consumers to not just speak about but become the voice of your brand.
Podcasting provided by Odovox.com
Author: Paul Bingham, COO ShuttleRock.com