Brand Advocacy for the Social Business: iStrategy Insights

It was pretty evident at last week”™s iStrategy San Francisco that CEOs, Marketers and Social Media teams have all figured it out: 2012 is the year of the big social brand. This means it”™s time to get engaged and build brand advocacy.

iStrategy brought together a great group of thought leaders including Altimeter Group“™s Brian Solis, McDonalds Director of Social Media Rick Wion and Former Facebook Marketing Director Randi Zuckerberg. They all spoke about various topics, trends and best practices pertinent to social business for big and small brands alike.

The sessions at iStrategy broke down the concept of brand advocacy and brought up some great questions that every brand should be considering:

How do I create advocates for my brand?

People are already talking about your brand. Here are a few tips picked up in the sessions and around happy hour tables at iStrategy that brands are actively taking to heart to grow their advocates:

- People believe people, not corporations. Remember this when talking to your customers and don”™t be afraid to have a personality and even highlight your people behind the corporate social media channels.

- The best advocates are also influencers, so nurture relationships with bloggers, celebrities, reporters and industry thought-leaders. Emphasis on relationships ““ not just blatant pitching and spam.

- Invite followers to events.

- Send real mail. Books, gift certificates, white papers, even a simple thank you note will go a long way with a prospective, angry, or inactive customer.

- Set social media goals around connecting, resonating and fostering affinity with your audience ““ not sales. (That”™s for your Sales team to focus on.)

- Make your content entertaining, engaging and educational ““ this will promote sharing.

- Get philanthropic and partner with a nonprofit for your next promotion. People are much more likely to support and share your brand when 10 cents of every dollar saves a penguin.

How do I measure brand advocacy?

The numbers don”™t lie ““ but what story are they telling? If Brand X has 1,000 followers and Brand Y has 9,000, which brand is better? Is it more important for people to like your brand or “like” your brand? Kristen Kovner, Vice President of Marketing from AOL, said that “[measuring advocacy and awareness] is not about user activity, it”™s about engagement.” Kristin, along with panelists Shanee Ben-Zur of NVIDIA, Tammy Gordon of AARP and Jordan Viator Slabaugh of Spredfast all shared the same sentiment – this means look beyond followers, likes and impressions. Start taking a deeper dive into the following KPIs:

- Resonance

- Sharing

- Comments

- Clicks

How can I help be a better advocate for my company?

If you”™re going to talk the social talk, you need to walk to the walk. Brand advocacy starts internally. Drink that Kool-Aid and share it with your co-workers, and make sure you”™re providing content that”™s relevant to your network!

- Share your company”™s big news and updates, including job openings and corporate announcements

- Start an internal company newsletter to share big news and big wins within your four walls. That ensures your entire company has the knowledge and excitement to better share information in their social networks.

- Join online discussions about your company or industry.

- Attend industry-relevant trade shows. Tweet, blog and share content and perspectives.

- Share customer success stories with friends and colleagues.

- Respect your competitors. Don”™t bash them in social media, because it only makes you look untrustworthy. That doesn”™t mean you can”™t monitor what”™s being said about them and learn from their actions.

On the heels of sharing his McDonalds’ lessons learned, Rick Wion shared “We can only influence, we can not control via social media.” For all of us in social media, that means that we should strive to provide RSS to our audiences ““ relevance, resonance and significance as coined by Brian Solis.

Thanks to the GDS International team for putting on the fantastic iStrategy event! We look forward to seeing everyone again in June for iStrategy Chicago.

Have a great tip for building brand advocacy or like to share a great brand advocate story? Please leave your comments below.

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