Advocacy Programs

Well-crafted advocacy programs

Scott bw

How well-crafted advocacy programs can revitalize your influencer marketing, amplify reach, build brand love, and even boost your SEO

While financial reimbursement of various forms is at the heart of influencer marketing, advocacy programs are about giving people other reasons to spread the word about your brand… reasons with more intrinsic value.

According to one study, “75% of respondents claimed that user-generated content makes marketing more authentic” so it should come as no surprise that in an Adweek survey 76% of consumers also said they trust content shared by ‘normal’ people more than by brands.

Rather than aiming for the elusive, big bang of having content ‘go viral’ (and then very quickly be forgotten), with advocacy programs we are seeing the bigger picture and challenging conventional thinking by tapping into our audiences’ existing sources of influence to craft highly effective digital word-of-mouth campaigns.

The 90-9-1 rule states that in most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

We’ve taken that model a step further with following four levels of engagement among your community: ambassadors, advocates, sneezers and lurkers.

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With advocacy programs we are primarily aiming to engage ambassadors and advocates (and potentially sneezers) to share messages related to our brand. And this starts with understanding the psychology behind influence and social sharing.

This article by EveryoneSocial, takes a look at a few of the leading models related to the psychology of sharing including Jonas Berger’s six principles that cause something to be widely shared (taken from his book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”).

Those principles which can easily be remembered with the acronym STEPPS are:

  1. Social Currency: We share things that make us look good.
  2. Triggers: Easily memorable information means it’s top of mind and tip of the tongue.
  3. Emotion: When we care, we share.
  4. Public: Built to show, built to grow.
  5. Practical Value: News people can use.
  6. Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

But when you’re getting started with advocacy marketing, we find it easier to start with identifying specific advocacy groups that also have influence towards your target audience or community so that we can define a very clear and strong WIIFT, or “What’s in it for them?”.

Unless we craft an almost irresistible offer, or hook, for our advocates, engagement levels will be low and each activation will almost certainly fail.

So, in traditional content distribution we tend to focus on our target audience and the message we have for them. But if we wish to tap into the many benefits of advocacy programs that needs to be balanced against the needs of our advocates to find the sweet spot in the overlap between advocate and audience needs.

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Types of advocacy groups we can engage include:

  • partners
  • brand ambassadors
  • experts
  • customers
  • employees
  • journalists
  • influencers
  • special interest groups / communities

And for each business or industry sector it’s a case of iteratively looking at the mix of advocacy groups and hooks to find the one(s) to focus on in establishing effective advocacy programs.

Some businesses are fortunate enough to be operating in a space with rather obvious opportunities such as a client in the pet insurance business. In this case, advocacy groups to engage could include veterinary clinics, animal welfare groups, or animal lovers in general.

Often the more specific the group the easier it is to create a strong hook. If we consider the veterinary clinics as an example, then the hook might be creating an award for leading veterinary clinics by region, based on customer voting. One of the things that people are most likely to share on social media and through other channels is when they receive praise from a reputable 3rd party or if they are in the limelight; what Jonas Berger calls social currency. It’s very likely that most of these small businesses would be excited about sharing such an accolade with their customers… who are also the target audience for pet insurance.

Or if animal welfare organisations were our chosen advocacy group then we might enter into a partnership with one or several organisations/groups to collectively promote ethical breeding and buying of pets. The hook here is simply to lift the message which is central to the mission of the animal welfare groups and give them support and added credibility. In so doing, we would position the pet insurer as a brand that cares about these issues and amplify our reach by tapping into the audiences of these partner organisations. Of course, we only encourage such an activation if it is genuinely in line with that brand’s values.

The third example of engaging pet lovers might involve a user-generated content campaign connected to a competition. Who doesn’t love cute photos of pets? I mean, cat photos have taken over the internet. So how might we incentivize animal lovers to submit cute and funny photos of their furry friends so that we can repost them. The hook in this case could be a competition with the funniest photos winning 6 months or a year of pet insurance for example. And for those that miss out there’s a secondary hook that if their photo gets reposted they will probably like it and share it again.

With this approach you might even seed the competition through your influencer marketing by having influencers with pets share news about the competition. Bringing in paid activations to kickstart an advocacy campaign like this can be a great way to get the ball rolling.

How does all this boost your SEO, I hear you asking. Well, as a part of Google’s algorithm, they look for signals that content and domains are more worthy of ranking for certain topics… signals of digital authority. The most important of those signals is links from relevant websites that also have authority. We DO NOT believe in buying or artificially creating such links in any way which is sadly far too common a practice within SEO. Instead, we want to earn these links the way Google always intended. If we have done a good job getting the attention of our target audience (and advocacy groups) through good old-fashioned marketing, links to our website will probably follow. As a part of our advocacy marketing we like to remind those advocacy groups that they might like to include a link as a part of that activation. For example, the veterinary clinics might link to the competition page or the pet insurer’s homepage, or the animal welfare groups might link to content where the insurance company is throwing their support behind that group and cause.

So, with this simple formula for crafting an effective advocacy program, we are not only able to deliver immediate benefits of amplifying reach, building brand love and revitalising our influencer marketing with more authenticity but we can achieve long term benefits of boosting our organic search visibility for years to come.

Do you want to know more or have any questions, please contact Scott Roemermann – email eller Linkedin.