It’s no secret that audiences respond more readily to their peers’ brand engagement than they do to messaging that comes directly from brands themselves. But what can communicators do to convert those engaged users into brand advocates?
Stacey DePolo, who manages social media and advocacy at domain and business services provider GoDaddy, considers that question often. She works daily to build GoDaddy’s community of brand advocates, which she defines as “a group of people who are passionate about a brand, product or cause that promotes their community either in person or online.”
DePolo will be leading a session on online advocacy and community building at The Social Shake-Up Boot Camp Nov. 15 in San Diego. For a taste of what she plans to cover, PR News talked to DePolo about what communicators can do to grow their own group of brand advocates.
PR News: What brands are doing a good job at building community on social?
Stacey DePolo: Brands that build a tribe around a cause, action or service other than the original product. REI is a great example—they’re passionate about getting people outdoors. For their “Opt Outside” campaign, they shut down on Black Friday and encouraged customers and employees to go outside. They ended up making more money than in previous holiday seasons.
Brands taking a stand make us want to talk about them, as opposed to those who don’t make waves or push the envelope. At GoDaddy we’re trying to level the playing field for small businesses; I would love to see GoDaddy become a hub for net neutrality, to tell our community, “join this movement.” That’s the tribal mindset.
PR News: How do you convert a follower or customer into a brand advocate?
DePolo: The first step is to do some social listening to find out who’s already talking [positively] about your brand, product or service. Ask those folks, “What can we do to promote you and what tools do you need?” Some advocates are frustrated if they’re not empowered with tools. These people are waiting out there to do your work without compensation, and will move onto another brand if you don’t reach out.
If you can form a tribal movement around your brand it becomes easier. Customer stories are a great way to stimulate that tribalism. You can take a group of customers who relate to each other or to a specific story, and hit the segments that are likely to resonate with that story arc.
Look at who’s buying the most and see if you can contact them directly. And if you look at the verbatim feedback in customer comments, you’ll find new and unique language and wording to use to describe your product (or cause).
PR News: What kinds of tools can you offer potential brand advocates?
DePolo: A blog or Facebook Group can make sure potential advocates are the first to know about a new product or release. Advocates love having news to share. They also crave any kind of direct access to leadership—that two-way channel is important.
Have good video and photo content to share, or ask advocates to create the content. Then they feel like they’re part of your brand. They then can go out and share with their networks: “Hey, I got to sit down with GoDaddy’s CEO and find out…” That’s a story you want to tell before it hits the wire.
PR News: Any missteps to avoid in recruiting brand advocates?
DePolo: They’re not asking to be compensated the way an influencer would, so there needs to be disclosure if there’s no quid pro quo. If you start to compensate them in any way you have to disclose that [in the assets they share] to avoid the FTC coming down on you.
Master the latest in digital and social strategy from brands like Taco Bell, IBM, American Heart Association, LinkedIn and more at The Social Shake-Up Boot Camp Nov. 15 in San Diego.
Follow Stacey: @sdepolo
Follow Sophie: @SophieMaerowitz