Online businesses depend a great deal on word-of-mouth to garner customers. Increasingly, word-of-mouth happens via Internet communication and social media. Every time one of your satisfied customers tells a friend about your product or service, she creates a new potential customer.

Brand advocacy is a new promotional strategy, one that evolved naturally out of social networks. To use it effectively, you must understand the medium and build relationships with the messengers.

Brand advocates approach the Internet differently than average users, often with different goals in mind when they communicate to their social networks. Brand advocates seek to become taste makers and influencers. They are highly prolific and are concerned with building a personal brand. They want to be widely known as a trusted source of information. They review consumer products because they feel passionate about the subject matter and wish to educate their audience.

These people are often Internet-savvy and well-versed in the language and culture of online communities. Many of them have large Twitter or Facebook followings. Some produce YouTube videos where they review and discuss their purchases.

Successful brand advocates become brands themselves, and their opinions carry a great deal of weight within their chosen communities.

The most famous and extreme case of brand advocacy is Oprah. If Oprah recommends a book or product to her audience, it is guaranteed to become a best-seller.

Humble beginnings

Most brand advocates do not have Oprah's following - they are far more modest. On average, brand advocates have between 200 to 300 followers. Brand advocates with more than five hundred followers are considered highly influential.

This may not sound like a lot, but for small businesses, a few sales can make a big difference. In addition, people in the brand advocate's circle discuss their purchases among themselves, too, creating a brand visibility feedback loop. Getting people to talk about your brand is the goal.

It is crucial to remember that brand advocates do not champion brands because they are being paid. In fact, paying a brand advocate for an endorsement is considered a conflict of interest and is frowned upon as an ethical violation. Integrity is a brand advocate's currency, and a loyal community can turn hostile if ethical lapses are discovered.

They champion brands because they are excited and passionate about the products. Some brand advocates develop a relationship to the businesses they review, but receiving discounts or free merchandise is not their primary motivation. They would talk about the products even if they got nothing.


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