Demonstrating brand advocacy: is there a best practice?

A tweet from recent follow @marissapick (thanks Marissa!) was a welcome site this morning. For me, it reaffirmed the oft-uncelebrated power of advocacy by brand champions, not just in social media campaigns but in every aspect of a brand’s identity and how such identity is perceived.

So in the course of being a brand champion, ourselves, one wonders: do we freely wave our respective flags and share the merits and benefits of our brand without regard for how we are expressing our (often highly subjective) opinions? Is there (or should there be) a best practice guideline when building your community of brand champions?

Organic serendipity

Since it was referenced in the @btobmagazine article, I then quickly googled the @wildfireapp report entitled, The Brand Advocate Factor, curious to determine how Wildfire (recently acquired by Google) conducted their study.

One of the top search results pointed to a webinar about the report. So cool! What a timely and serendipitous* find.

*an aside: I admire startups who aim to “bottle” serendipity in a social tool, but must say that letting it occur naturally, organically like this is far more compelling and exhilarating IMO!

To prove it, here’s another case in point: glancing over my Twitter stream right after tweeting about the  webinar, I came across this post proposing that Facebook and Twitter will soon feel the ‘MySpace Effect’.

Upon reading the article, I realized from  its tone and customized intent that this piece would serve well to illustrate  some  points below.

The balanced brand champion

It’s one thing to postulate that there may be a remote—and I say ‘remote’ in the most speculative of senses—chance that current social giants like FB and Twitter may run the risk of devolving into a similar state MySpace experienced with its user base.

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But it’ s quite another thing to selectively highlight data that reveal less than stellar performances of FB’s and Twitter’s  social brands and then quickly wrap up  the syllogism by heavily promoting G+ in stark contrast.

While the bias may not be surprising (all brand champions are biased to the brands they love), I had to pause and ask myself whether or not the manner in which “sharing the brand love” can be done without having to blatantly disparage the alleged state of other brands:

«  Facebook and Twitter can boast about user numbers all they want, but those figures don’t solve the core problem their products are causing: social media depression**.

Never mind the fact that research firm Pear Analytics came out with a study in 2009 that pinned over 40 percent of all tweets generated as “pointless babble.” *** »

**see this telling  infographic (via @onedegree) that effectively depicts existential narcissism (a phenomenon closely linked to this so-called  ‘social media depression’) characterizing social networks 

***is 2009 data relevant when attempting to portray an impending trend?

Can we (should we) cultivate brand champions who are highly advanced critical thinkers with the propensity to offer balanced views and sentiments?

Objective passion

A bit of an oxymoron this subhead. But I don’t think it’s impossible to achieve.

Since the reality is that many of us are dedicated fans of competing brands, how should we, as genuinely passionate advocates, share the passion for our brand(s) without (a) having to eviscerate others while (b) maintaining integrity and (c) strengthening credibility.

I propose the  four thoughts below to start:

  1. Focus on the positive – sharing positive sentiments about your brand can go well beyond trumpeting promotions and specials. Tell unique stories that have touched other communities and audiences. Capitalize on tangible CSR-related marketing, especially if you’re a corporate brand.
  2. Avoid hyperbole – essentially, this means: keep your emotional reactions in check. Yes, we all fall into this trap. And that’s ok: our emotions are after all part and parcel of our passionate nature. But the passion you have about a brand does not have to be  flashed or ‘fireworked’ as bolded , upper case with  exclamation marks. The collective sharing of your champions and the power of the brand itself will naturally produce the wonder effect.
  3. Enforce a ‘No Mudslinging Zone’ – we can take a page from certain advertisers and follow their approach of doing comparisons by citing “other leading brands” versus blurting out a competitive brand name out right. Strategic brand champions are adept at eliciting curiosity from intriguing, constructive suggestions over polarized mayhem aimed at sheer shock value.
  4. Engage in healthy debate – nurture the ongoing conversation. There may be thread upon thread of discussions branching out about your brand. Some may be positive. Some may be negative. Be curious and talk about the nature of a negative experience. Discover (and try to understand) their perspective. How can you win them over through intelligent discourse?

Are you a brand ambassador? What has your experience taught you about building champions for your brand?

3 thoughts on “Demonstrating brand advocacy: is there a best practice?

  1. Autom excellent post. I think you are on to something with the four guidelines you described above. Ultimately the brand has to decide who they are and what they represent. If the brand values the principles you suggested here then ambassadors will tend to follow. I believe there will be a natural self-policing where these folks tend to gather and those who abuse the guidelines should be addressed in as much as this is possible. I really like the idea of healthy debate, feels like we have lost that art. So establishing a positive environment, knowing what you stand for as a brand, nurturing the appropriate values in community, recognizing those who display the core values will go a long way in establishing and sustaining the ethos of a good brand. 

  2.  @autom8 Hmm i think guidelines are always in order that said if there is an issue with culture no set of guidelines will overcome that! Since Social media is herding cats I doubt that these guidelines will change ambassadors either they will simply reflect the culture IMO. 

    1.  @autom8 Well stated, as usual, I believe you touched on the key points here especially the enticing , creative and genuine – it really requires buy-in and reinforcing the internal behaviors necessary to cross typical silo boundaries and tap in to the full value – suggest Patrick Lencioni – The Advantage is a good read on the topic.

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