With social networks becoming more crowded and louder than ever, you may be wondering how your message can rise above the noise. Quality content and strategic targeting are certainly two ways of approaching the challenge, but what about your fans? They’re talking about you and your products, so how can you leverage that online and offline conversation into something that’s mutually beneficial?
A good way of doing this is by transforming some of your most passionate customers into brand ambassadors and empowering them to continue spreading the word about your product or service. Not only does this help to amplify your message, but it also gives your biggest fans a larger feeling of inclusion in your brand.
So how can you create a successful ambassador program? We’re glad you asked. Here are some best practices and examples of existing programs to help get you started.
Define Your Goals
This is one of those universal truths that applies to every aspect of your marketing initiatives. Before you even consider reaching out to customers, you first need to establish what you’re hoping to achieve through the ambassador program. Do you want to build brand awareness? Develop more content? Drive specific actions? How do the goals of the program align with your overall business goals?
Establishing structure doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible in the future. If social media has taught us anything it’s that things move at a fast pace and can change over night. But having these goals in place help you and your ambassadors know what’s expected of them. It’ll also help in identifying problem areas within the program that might have to be reconfigured should one of your goals not be met.
Give. And Give A Lot
Your brand ambassadors are valuable members of your community and should be rewarded. But before we start talking compensation, the most important thing you can provide with them is information. Give them ideas of how to feature your brand and share the latest product information with their networks.
Also, ask them how they want to be involved — some people might prefer hosting in-home events rather than blogging or tweeting. Play to your customers’ strengths. Not only does this help you maintain some control regarding messaging, but it also ensures that ambassadors don’t flake out on responsibilities due to a lack of communication, interest, or guidance.
In terms of compensation, it’s not always about money. Your biggest fans will likely want something else, such as access, acknowledgement, and exclusivity. For example, the Nintendo Brand Ambassador program invited its members to tour the Nintendo America headquarters, which is closed off to the public.
Lululemon, as another example, provides its ambassadors with all kinds of swag to share with others. Jones Soda gave its student ambassadors samples to hand out during midterms, finals, and major campus events. #DellCAP attendees were given access to the company’s CEO through a 30-minute interview. There are lots of creative ways you can reward your ambassadors, but something that should never be ignored is acknowledgment — both publicly and privately.
Create a Feedback Loop
This definitely plays into our first recommendation about developing your goals. The only way you’re going to achieve them is if your ambassadors have direct access to the brand and vice versa. Feedback goes both ways and is necessary in order for both sides to be successful. Encourage ambassadors to offer feedback about the program and your products. Additionally, you’ll want them to pass along any feedback they hear from their networks.
In turn, you’ll want to have a strategy in place for sharing this feedback with the rest of your team. Maybe it’ll be easier to have one or two ambassadors collect information from the rest of the group and then bring it to whoever is leading the program. Or maybe you’d rather dedicate a monthly Google+ Hangout with the entire group. Figure out what will work best for both sides and then move forward. This is where starting with a smaller group of ambassadors comes in handy, so you can see what works and put tried and true methods in place as your program grows.
Last but not least, know when to back off. A successful ambassador program will begin running itself. You’ll always be there, but eventually you won’t be required to be super hands-on. Over time your ambassadors will become familiar with the program and might even be able to recruit new members. More importantly, let their voice dominate this program. If consumers feel that your ambassadors aren’t genuine, then the program won’t be a success. Give your team the tools necessary to develop their voice and know when to take the back seat.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.