3 Steps to Connect with Brand Advocates

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Driving traffic, sales and loyalty with user generated content

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to escape the cold Midwest weather to head to Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW), a massive, annual conference that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries.

On Saturday, I spoke on a panel with leaders from other leading software companies including ReviewTrackers and IBM on how to maximize and optimize the customer journey. My portion of the panel focused on advocacy and how identifying and engaging with brand advocates can help brands drive traffic, sales and loyalty. Read on for the three steps I shared for engaging with and leveraging brand advocates.

1. Identify existing and potential advocates.

Start off by taking a look at transaction history for your customers. In addition to overall dollars spent, also consider the specific products someone has purchased. For example, if you want to find someone who will promote baby products to expecting and new parents, the first step is finding someone who has purchased these types of products.

You’ll also want to take a closer look at the reviews your potential brand advocates have submitted. In addition to the number of reviews they’ve written, also consider how frequently their reviews are voted as “helpful” by other shoppers. You’ll also want to determine whether a potential advocate has submitted visual content such as photos and videos as part of their reviews. User generated photos and videos are becoming more and more valuable to brands, with 88% of consumers specifically looking for photos and videos submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase. Consumers who take the time to submit visual content are highly engaged and are likely good candidates to become your next brand advocates.

2. Collect content from advocates.

After you’ve identified existing or potential advocates, ask them to contribute content to your ecommerce site such as ratings and reviews, photos and videos. In order to generate a large volume of reviews, make sure the process for submitting and reading reviews is mobile friendly from start to finish. Advocates should be able to easily write reviews and upload photos or videos directly from their phones.  

In addition, potential advocates are likely to purchase multiple items in one transaction, so it’s key to make it easy for them to review multiple products from one page. PowerReviews customers have experienced a 36% increase in product coverage by doing this.

Also, remember that your advocates may need a little encouragement to submit review content. PowerReviews research found that more than half of consumers not writing reviews cited needing motivation to do so. Consider offering incentives such as free, faster shipping, loyalty points, early access to sales or products, entry into a sweepstakes, or free samples in exchange for a review. Just be sure to badge these reviews appropriately so future shoppers understand that these reviews were generated in exchange for an incentive.

3. Leverage content from your advocates

Once you’ve generated content from your advocates, identify ways to amplify that content. For starters, you can leverage this content on other areas of your website, including your homepage, category pages, and campaign-specific landing pages.

You can also include review content from brand advocates on your in-store signage. For example, Amazon has display cards throughout their brick and mortar stores that feature reviews from real consumers.

Amazon Customer Review

Finally, think of ways to amplify the visual content your advocates submit in print and digital marketing initiatives. For example, Apple has an ongoing campaign that features user photos taken using Apple products.

User Generated Content from Apple- Tree on a billboard.

If you haven’t developed a brand advocacy program, now’s the time to start. While loyalty programs reward and incentivize one shopper at a time, advocate programs have the power to inspire thousands of shoppers through the influence of one person.