One of the best benefits of social media marketing is the instant, two-way communication you have with your customers. You can get immediate feedback from them on any type of message you post/tweet. Even if the feedback is negative, you have the opportunity to turn it into a positive by addressing their issues or concerns, and hopefully making them happy by the end of the interaction.
This real-time communication and interaction also allows for your customers to act as brand ambassadors for your store. A brand ambassador is a customer who supports your store on your social media profiles as well as on their own. Ideally, brands want ambassadors who are social media influencers. A social influencer is somebody who has a substantial and positive social media following on their own profiles. To be a truly authentic brand ambassador, a person should regularly use your product(s) or patronize your business, and then share their experiences with your brand on their social media profiles.
Last week I attended an AAFKC (American Advertising Federation, Kansas City) Wednesday Accelerations breakfast on “Influencer Marketing: The New Age of Social Media.” The panel included: Katrina Steffensen, social media specialist at Garmin, Lance Flores, art director at Baldwin Denim, and Marianne Gjerstad, director of social media at Barkley.
Steffensen and Gjerstad discussed their experience working with social media influencer brand ambassadors at their respective companies, while Flores discussed his experience being a social influencer and a brand ambassador for several brands.
Steffensen highlighted the benefits of working with social influencers as a brand:
- Legitimacy as a brand
- Recruiting for a brand people love
- Solving a brand problem with ambassadors
Working with a global company like Garmin, Steffensen has the ability to develop a robust brand ambassador program, complete with an application to become an social media ambassador with the company.
However, Steffensen and her team ensure that the company/ambassador relationship is more than just a product exchange. They work to build relationships with their ambassadors and ensure that these people actually use their products and will promote them in a genuine manner to their followers.
Steffensen works in the fitness technology division of Garmin so they work with influential people in the fitness world, including trainers, runners and other active individuals. They have clearly defined goals for their social media ambassadors:
- Making influencers and fans into ambassadors
- Regular communication with ambassadors is key
- Create uniform opportunities for all ambassadors
- Provide unique opportunities for ambassadors beyond just product
Flores echoed these sentiments from his experience as a social media influencer and brand ambassador. His successful Instagram following has allowed him to act as an ambassador for several companies, including Daniel Wellington and Nike. At first he would reach out to companies he was interested in (Daniel Wellington), but he has also been contacted by the companies as well (Nike). He emphasizes the importance posting consistent, authentic content as a brand ambassador. Followers will be able to tell if an ambassador is being insincere about a product/service.
So why are brand ambassadors so important? Well, as Gjerstad explained, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people (even people they don’t know personally) over brand content (The Shelf). Not to mention, influencer marketing is 11 times more effective than website banner ads (Ad Week). This is why Flores’ emphasis on authentic content is so important. Your customers are far more likely to trust the social media content from your ambassadors, so you want this content to be as authentic and true to your brand as possible. As Steffensen said, with social influencers you want to create a brand advocate for life.
Our retailers may not be able to develop a brand ambassador program like Garmin or the companies who work with Barkley. But that doesn’t mean your loyal customers can’t act as brand advocates for your store. You can use the instant, two-way communication of social media, in addition to face-to-face interactions in-store, to develop strong relationships with your more loyal customers and even invite them to be a part of your overall marketing plan.
For example, with your customers’ permission, you can:
- Feature your more loyal customers on your social media platforms
- Interact with their positive feedback and even include them when you post something, if appropriate (include their Twitter handle in a tweet or tag them in an Instagram photo)
- Include them in a special VIP group that is invited to special events, receives access to new products before the general public, etc.
Interested in developing a brand ambassador strategy that’s right for your store(s)? At AWG, our social media team can help you develop plans to create your own brand advocates.