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People don’t trust brands - or rather, they don’t trust advertising. In 2019, a study commissioned by the American Association of Advertising Agencies showed that over 90% of consumers don’t find advertisements trustworthy and don’t believe in the integrity of brands.
I’m trying to say that you might keep putting a lot of money into the “traditional marketing” and paid traffic sources like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and even TV ads, but it might just not work if you don’t start diversifying your efforts and working on your reputation. Your reputation is made predominantly of what other people - customers, employees, and business partners - have to say about your brand and company. Can they recommend your solutions? Have they had pleasant customer experiences? Do they like working for you?
You must know that over 80% of consumers do their own research before making any big purchase online or offline. They gather information by reading product reviews, recommendations, benchmarks, and blog articles. A few public complaints can cost you a potential customer.
The same goes for developers. IT specialists conduct a very detailed investigation before they decide to sign up for the paid plan of your product or implement your technology at their company, which involves certain costs and risks. Their research includes all of the above resources, as well as implementation examples from other companies, documentation, and use cases.
So, if you want to win the developers over, it might be a good idea to provide them with all the necessary knowledge and information as soon as possible. Preferably with the help of other specialists who already use and love your solutions. In other words - you should invest in brand advocacy.
Let’s start with the basics - what is brand advocacy?
To put it briefly, brand advocacy is any support or recommendation you receive from your customers. In the case of tech companies, we focus on developers (developer advocates) who add value to your organization by sharing knowledge and educating other specialists about your product. It may sound like something over which you have no control, but it’s quite the opposite.
It’s absolutely possible to organize, recruit, reward, and motivate your brand advocates through brand advocacy programs. This way, you can include organic, external user-generated content and brand activities in your marketing strategy and measure its efficiency.
To launch a successful brand advocacy program, you need people to get invested in your brand.
To achieve this, first, you have to focus on building great relationships with them through your online community or social media. Make sure they’re happy with your services and provide them with good customer experiences. A satisfied customer is far more likely to organically promote your brand by saying (or writing) good things about it. That’s when you can start rewarding them for their contribution.
Who are brand advocates?
Technically speaking, every person who actively supports your brand, wants to talk and create content about it, and is interested in its growth, can become your brand advocate (in the case of tech companies, we usually focus on developer advocates).
Advocates are willing and excited to promote your company by creating content and sharing knowledge. They engage in various brand activities, such as writing blog articles, recording video tutorials, writing reviews, organizing meetups and training, or taking an active part in conferences. They recommend your brand to other people and add value to the company.
While brand advocates are usually just your everyday loyal customers, developer advocates are specialized professionals who use your product for work and want to educate others on how they can solve their problems with it. There are also many other forms of advocacy that can involve influencers, employees, business partners, or even celebrities.
What are the types of brand advocates?
The concept of brand advocacy is constantly growing and evolving, so its classification can be quite broad. Companies sometimes like to include (and name) their own advocacy initiatives and types of brand advocates in their business/marketing strategies. Describing all of them would be a tedious and time-consuming task. However, there are 6 “archetypes” of advocates out there that are extremely popular and often mentioned:
From the perspective of startups and tech companies, this is the most important type. Developer Advocacy usually involves the Developer Relations mindset and focuses on professional communities of developers who love your product. Their brand activities usually include creating content about your brand and educating other specialists on how to use your solutions.
Loyal customers - brand advocates
Although brand advocacy can take many forms, it is usually commonly understood as creating rewards programs for the most loyal customers who want to promote the brand. Dedicated advocates can boost brand awareness and brand visibility organically and add value to your products.
Influencers (and micro-influencers)
Brand advocacy with influencers can also be considered influencer marketing. There are many differences between an influencer and a typical brand advocate. Primarily, influencers want to be paid for their efforts (sometimes a lot). That’s why they usually participate in individual campaigns. Though expensive, they can be efficient and powerful ambassadors, and bring in the profit you need.
Brand ambassadors (celebrities)
If you have enough resources, celebrities like famous movie stars, singers or models can become the face of your brand. However, even an A-list brand ambassador won’t drive much of a positive business impact if your campaign and the activities are not relatable or lack authenticity.
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)
The category of KOLs can include any person - a celebrity, an influencer, a specialist - provided that their status and/or influence in the given field (scientific, medical, technological, etc.) are high enough for consumers to listen to their recommendations. Key Product Leaders also need to be recognized as experts and/or have the trust of their audience. That means that your developers can also become KOLs.
Employee advocacy is an extremely useful solution, especially if you want to hire new talents, boost morale in the workplace, and improve your employer branding. If you turn your employees into “brand advocates”, they will promote your company as a great place to work. Employee advocacy can help you get new talented developers and IT specialists on the team.
Why is brand advocacy so important?
Simple - brand advocates bring many benefits to your company without an overbearing financial investment on your side. Successful advocacy efforts help you:
Build brand awareness and increase your brand visibility
Your best brand advocates will attract a lot of new potential customers. They can even introduce your brand to an entirely new audience (or audiences), which will help you stand out from the crowd of competitors - you will become recognizable.
Grow your KPIs without spending a lot of money
A great rewards program for your advocates will cost you less than another expensive TV commercial or paid social advertising. At the same time, your brand advocates might become the most powerful element of your marketing strategy by bringing the human factor to an inanimate brand.
Humanize your brand
Once real people start to share the value of your products or services through recommendations, reviews, tutorials, and other efforts, your brand will become more trustworthy to consumers. People might not trust brands, but they do trust each other when it comes to online shopping.
Access a lot of valuable content, insights, and feedback
Every engaged brand advocate wants their beloved brand to listen to them. And you should definitely do that because they’ve got outstanding ideas and create engaging content! Whether it’s developer advocacy, employee advocacy, or any other type, a successful program will give you access to a lot of user-generated content (like video tutorials, blog articles, and customer success stories) as well as important customer feedback and insights. Remember that the customers invested in your brand are more likely to be honest about your products. Listen to them!
Building your brand advocacy program - where to start
If by now you have already decided to include brand advocacy in your marketing efforts, good for you! Now you’ll need the right brand advocacy strategy to synthesize your ideas and steps, KPIs to measure your success, and brand advocacy software that will support your brand or community manager. Regardless of what form of advocacy you have selected, there are a couple of vital steps on your way:
Take care of your customer relationships first
No one will want to become your brand advocate if you have never shown that you care about their experiences or building relationships with them. Before you start even thinking about brand advocacy, make sure that your audience feels connected to your brand.
Think about the “why” behind your advocacy program
Yes, it all starts with the “why”. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to engage in brand advocacy?”. Bear in mind that the answer “To grow my profits” is just not enough. Think about the vision behind your organization, your mission, and your values. How can your brand advocacy project align with them?
Identify your potential advocates
A brand advocate should not get chosen by chance. Make sure you know who your advocates are - it will be easier once you find your “why” and your vision. You can also think about the following questions:
- What type of advocates would you like to have?
- Would you prefer to be paid (influencers, ambassadors) or organic?
- In what brand activities should they engage?
Remember about your business goals
Your program cannot succeed without fulfilling the business goals. It’s important to identify them - not only for individual projects but also for the whole organization. Having business goals allows you to set a clear path of growth and track the success of your initiatives. So make sure that your brand advocacy contributes to them.
Find software that will support your efforts
You will need a space to accommodate your brand advocates and launch brand advocacy management processes. Make sure to pick software that will help your community or brand manager leverage and organize the whole program. Software like Advocu - flexible to fit your needs and full of powerful out-of-the-box functionalities.
How do you measure brand advocacy?
You already know that no brand advocacy program can succeed without fulfilling the business goals. To monitor your progress, you should select KPIs that fit your campaign and measure them at regular intervals, say, once a month.
Additionally, you can track and collect data to create more and more successful advocacy campaigns. To pick the appropriate data, ask yourself these questions:
- Which advocates are most active?
- How many active advocates do you have?
- What channels do people choose to talk about your products?
- What are your advocates saying to other users when they talk about your products?
What is most important when building brand advocacy program?
When researching your brand, consumers are looking for the human factor. The core of every brand should be people - your existing and potential customers, employees, or business partners. Without people devoted to your products and vision, the brand cannot succeed.
But brand advocacy can provide that for you. So, if you haven’t considered including it in your marketing strategy so far, don’t miss out any longer and start working on it as soon as possible.