Over the last year, content marketing on social media has made a big shift. As networks like Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest have matured, they have become advertising channels. Not only do brands have to create lots of content, the rise of the ad-based social media business model means they have to pay to get the kind of reach social reach they used to get for free.
According to Greg Shove, CEO of SocialChorus, a software service that helps brands recruit, measure and engage brand advocates, brands don’t want to — and frankly, most can’t afford to — buy their social media engagement. He says he talks to lots of companies that would rather earn their engagement, and brand advocates are an opportunity to do just that.
Really the phrase “brand advocate” is a fancy way of saying word of mouth marketing, which has long been considered one of the most powerful forms of marketing. It works mostly because consumers trust what other consumers say more than they trust the company developed brand message.
Another big challenge is creating all the content necessary to populate the social channels, Shove says. “To be really effective at social marketing, you need a lot of content to be refreshed daily. [It has] to be topically relevant, to be culturally relevant and not always talking about the brand.”
Shove says that the big benefit to leveraging the power of brand advocates is that they will create the content for you. It’s cost effective and for companies willing to give advocates some flexibility, the messages are much more authentic.
“You can prompt advocates, but you can’t tell them what your marketing priorities are,” he says.
It’s not hard to engage brand advocates either — all you have to do is ask. And once they create the content, it’s important to provide some sort of reward or recognition. Shove cited a Mountain Dew example where 10 brand advocates were given the opportunity to participate in a press conference. The Ford #MustangInspires campaign is a good example, where the company prompted the participants, gave them creative freedom and then promoted the videos.
There are two things Shove says brands need to keep in mind when engaging advocates:
- Trust your fans. If they are fans, and not detractors, Shove says they’ll help promote and tell the story. “The reason you should trust them is because they’ve got more trust,” he says.
- A small number of advocates can have a big impact. While Shove admits that bigger brands can obviously engage larger numbers of advocates, even small brands are likely to have a few very active social media followers. “A small number of active advocates can generate a lot of content and engagement.”
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