Brand advocates hold great potential for marketers who seek to expand their reach through social media. But these brand advocates engage with consumers in a variety of ways and tend to evangelize about specific product sets. As a result, marketers must use brand advocates wisely to get the most out of their investment.
BzzAgent recently reported on brand advocate research carried out by Dr. Kathleen R. Ferris-Costa at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Ferris-Costa’s data indicates that brand advocates generally have strong opinions about which brands to buy and they tend to create a great deal of content that can influence prospective purchasers. For example, brand advocates use these platforms to inform others about products and brands:
- Social networking sites: 58%
- Email: 52%
- E‑commerce sites: 43%
- Online feedback mechanisms: 28%
- Discussion boards/forums: 27%
- IM: 22%
The majority of brand advocates communicate with friends (71%) and family members (64%) when discussing products and brands. But over 1/3rd also communicate with acquaintances and people they do not know.
Marketers should know that brand advocates are particularly active in specific product categories such as:
- Food/dining: 55%
- Personal care/beauty: 49%
- Household products: 49%
- Home/home products: 49%
- Shopping/retail/apparel: 49%
These consumers are well aware of the important role they play in promoting brands. Nearly 58% say they want the brand to view them as an advocate. And over half, 55%, expect a reward from the brand for their efforts. Bzzagent analysts say that brands can seek out these consumers at discussion boards and social media sites like Twitter and begin engaging with them. In addition, brands should make sure to dole out coupons and other special offers to curry favor with these advocates. At the same time, brands must be sure not to pay for positive reviews and to stay within FTC guidelines regarding disclosure.
But, properly handled and monitored, brand advocates can become an important marketing tool. And based on the results of this study, it seems that more brands are likely to actively seek out and work with their advocates.[Source: A Field Guide to Brand Advocates. Bzzagent.com. 2011. Web. 1 Jun. 2011]