Brand Advocacy: What It Is And Why It Is Important For PR

hand creating a heart shape against a pink background
hand creating a heart shape against a pink background

Apple, a leading tech company with arguably some of the most innovative products on the market right now, is a trailblazer when it comes to consistently offering products that feel uniquely personal to the consumer. From their annual #AppleEvent to the iStore experience and everything in between, Apple has managed to turn their customers into brand advocates without even sharing a single tweet on their Twitter account that has 6.2 Million followers. Apple's marketing strategy has a way of encouraging its consumers to be brand advocates, without actually asking them to do so. 

So, how can you implement brand advocacy into your own PR strategy in order to convert customers into loyal advocates for your company? Keep reading. 

Table of Contents

What is Brand Advocacy?

Brand advocacy is about promoting your brand by word-of-mouth marketing. Consumers who tend to share their positive reviews and experiences of your brand on social media can help promote your company to new customers, and positively influence your sales. 

Brand advocates influence around 50% of purchasing decisions. This could be done through social media or by word-of-mouth, where 90% of consumers say that a word-of-mouth recommendation also influences their purchasing decision.

Why You Should Care About Brand Advocacy

This may come as a surprise, but your consumers may not trust your brand all the time. In fact, only 1 in 3 consumers believe that they can trust the brands they buy. If someone can't trust your brand, how can you expect them to purchase a product or service from you? Managing your brand reputation is important to your business's bottom line — not only for your marketing objectives. According to the World Economic Forum, a quarter of a company’s market value can be directly related to its reputation.

If you have a good reputation and offer a valuable product, customers will buy from you again and again. Plus, they'll tell their friends to buy from you.

Without really knowing it, brand advocates often become marketers for your brand as they create user-generated content and give you free publicity. From product video reviews to blog posts specifically mentioning your brand,  incorporate brand advocates into your PR campaigns to not only boost brand awareness but gain publicity and user-generated content at the same time.

So, you need to ensure that your brand, products, and services are being positively perceived by others. This is where brand advocacy comes into play, and why you should care about it. 

A man on the phone with the Instagram app open

If you manage to establish a loyal customer base, you'll want to nurture those customers. After all, you've probably heard about the 80/20 rule, which states that about 80% of company sales come from about 20% of its customers.

The Importance of a Brand Advocacy Program

So how can you effectively build trust in your brand where consumers genuinely speak positively about you and their loyalty to your company? The short answer: Implement a brand advocacy program. 

Brand advocacy programs provide consumers with incentives for speaking positively about your brand and company. The goal is to encourage them to promote your company and reward the consumers who do so. Essentially, this is influencer marketing — only your influencers are your existing customer base, not a group of models in L.A.

According to Marketing Charts, a brand advocate will reach an average of 150 people every time they speak about your company. So if you have four brand advocates, that is around 600 people that could be exposed to your brand. Organic reach like this, alongside the free publicity and increased sentiment around your brand, can all make for compelling reasons to implement a brand advocacy program. Some things you would need to consider are:

  • How will you reward customers?
  • How will you continue to foster community-building through the program?
  • How will you enable customers to be personal in their advocacy?

When you can answer these three questions, you have the makings of a brand advocacy program that can truly help turn customers into advocates.

Tip: Tailor your content marketing activities toward your brand advocates. By having a plan for how you to encourage and leverage user-generated content you'll hopefully be able to build that community of brand advocates you are after.

The PR Impact on Brand Advocacy

A typical sales funnel stops at the purchase, but an ideal customer journey actually ends in advocacy. Relationship marketing disciplines like social media typically touch consumers at both the top and bottom of the sales funnel.

A visualization of the customer's buying journey. The steps in the funnel are Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Purchase, Adoption, Retention, Expansion, and Advocacy.

Brand advocates have immense brand value, but how does PR play a role? A quick look at a standard customer purchase funnel helps to illustrate where PR comes into play at every stage.

  • Awareness: PR activities drive brand awareness, which is the first step a consumer takes in the customer purchase funnel. The PR that makes your potential customers aware of your product or brand has a significant impact on their initial impression of your brand.
  • Consideration – Loyalty: PR plays a major role in shaping your corporate image. As a customer moves from consideration to loyalty, the corporate image becomes a key component in how that customer feels about your brand.
  • Advocacy: It is the holistic brand experience that builds a brand advocate. Elements of advocacy include product experience, customer service, and brand image, to name a few.

How Brand Advocates Boost Your PR

PR professionals are always looking for others that are praising their company or executive leaders. We all love it when a journalist or blogger writes about our company — but PR & Communications teams even more so. Getting endorsement from a brand advocate is no different than being featured in an article on an online news publication; they are telling the world about your brand and doing so authentically.

One of Meltwater's South African clients, Primedia Broadcasting, shared insights into how they use our Audiense feature to attract radio listeners. It was a great article about the benefits they have experienced in using Meltwater. Comments like "Audience, gives us live, actionable insights into listener interaction with the stations," provide organic social proof of the value of our platform. This is just one example of the value brand advocacy for companies.

An article like this conveys the value to other potential customers who may be researching Meltwater and our products. Whether prospective clients read the Primedia Broadcasting article organically after finding it through a search engine or after being directed by a sales rep, it has all the value of a 3rd party endorsement.

man wearing glasses and writing in a notepad with a open laptop on a desk in front of him

Organic vs. Manufactured: Brand Advocates or Brand Ambassadors?

Whenever the topic of brand advocacy comes up, a question that almost always arises is: “Are you talking about brand ambassadors or advocates, organic or manufactured?”

The difference between the two is simple: are you paying them? If you are, they are brand ambassadors. If not, they brand advocates.

Organic brand advocates become advocates on their own, based on their experience with your brand. These are the consumers who have worked their way through the funnel and just LOVE your product or service.

Organically grown brand advocates would be willing to post about your brand on social media (or even get a tattoo of your brand's logo) without you having to ask them to do so. If you have to pay someone to get a tattoo of your brand logo, well, then that's an advertisement.

An Apple's fans tattoo of the brand's logo

Manufactured advocates (aka brand ambassadors) are the people you find and pay to advocate for your brand. They fall into many different categories, but the most common example would be celebrities, promotional models, spokespeople, and even macro-influencers. Michael Jordan may love Nike, but he doesn’t endorse the product for free – he is a paid ambassador of the brand.

How to Find and Nurture Organic Brand Advocates

The good news is that you probably already have advocates speaking about your company on social media. They are your customers, employees, and partners, and there is a good chance that they represent you, to some degree, online. A good social media monitoring tool will help you identify organic brand advocates who are already in action.

The best steps to take in building relationships with advocates are generally the same as those you would take to build a strong business, amongst them:

  • Thoughtfully listen to what consumers are saying
  • Engaging with them in conversations online
  • Offering helpful advice or service
  • Having great products and great customer service
  • Having differentiators customers care about
  • Being appreciative and thankful
  • Building social media communities

Other ways that you could find brand advocates include using social media listening and social media community management. You want to find advocates that not only speak positively about your brand, but are active community members that are already engaging with you. For a more in-depth look into finding your advocates using social media, read this blog post

person holding a phone with like button, follower count and comment number speech bubbles

In conclusion

As a customer moves through the purchase funnel, they encounter PR in various forms along the way, but the magic happens when they reach the end and become brand advocates. As a customer evolves into an advocate, they go from consuming your company’s PR to helping to create PR for your company on social media. They become aligned with your branding, they represent you in a positive way to their own online audience, and the organic influence they have really will benefit you. A strong brand advocate becomes an influencer, and – as we’ve discussed - in today’s digital world an influencer can be just as valuable as a journalist.

To learn more about how social media listening can help with your brand advocacy programs and PR campaigns, complete the form below for a free demo today.

Loading...