Image courtesy of flickr user mkhmarketing

Social media advocacy: next level engagement

By Craig Hurring

I had the great privilege of presenting recently at MemCom2017, the conference and awards for the UK’s membership organisations and professional bodies. My speech primarily addressed the steps my most recent employer, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), was taking to future proof its brand strategy in the wake of a change in primary audience for member acquisition.

While I was delighted with the feedback from my presentation, what was apparent when meeting attendees afterwards is how little awareness there was about the power of social media advocacy, one of the key aspects of CMI’s new brand strategy. So hopefully this short guide to the work I’ve done with CMI in this field will be useful to Influence readers. 

The Right and Wrong

Let’s start with absolutely what social media advocacy is not. Incentivising users of social media platforms by paid promotions to follow your brand and possibly win a prize by promoting your social media feed is not social media advocacy. That is a sales promotion taking place via social media, which offers no long-term engagement for both parties.

For a social media advocacy programme to work effectively, it needs the balance between high quality, engaging and relevant social media content from a host brand and interested and engaged followers (these could be employees, franchisees, members or customers) to share and use your own content within their personal social media feeds on an ongoing basis. When it’s done well brands can experience significant uplift in awareness and reach. According to Hootsuite, content generated by employees via social advocacy platforms offers:

  • Eight times more engagement than owned channel content
  • 92% new follower presence for your brand
  • Six times more reach than content posted directly via your brand social networks

Mutual engagement, mutual reward

Doing social media advocacy programmes well isn’t easy. Your followers aren’t simply going to repost and comment on your branded content and thought leadership for the sake of it – and just encouraging employees to repost all your content will deter followers, not encourage them. But the rewards of doing it effectively are increasingly apparent, and leading brands such as IBM and Deloitte are demonstrating that it can be a very powerful tool. Here’s a five-step programme to help you bring your social media advocacy strategy successfully to life:

Step 1 – Choose your platform

Depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, social media advocacy can be run via your standalone social media channels or via a software solution. At CMI we launched social media advocacy using Amplify, a tool which enables you to select and categorise the social media content you wish to post to your advocates across all your social channels, which is then picked up and shared by your followers via an App, via which they can upload content into their timeline at the touch of a button, with or without their own commentary.

Step 2 – Define your priority audiences

It’s vital to start with an understanding of your audiences on social media. Is there a bias for particular audiences on certain channels? Do you have the balance of content to engage younger users seeking more pragmatic content and older users looking for more vigorous debate and experiential reflection?  Make sure you do the ground work here to identify how you will segment your thematic messages and audiences, to ensure content engagement remains high.

Step 3 – Acquisition campaign

Decide where in your target audiences the opportunity for engagement and sharing is greatest. Run training sessions and webinars that not only promote the ease of championing your branded content, but which explain how the user can use your social media to establish their own profile as a commentator on your brand’s subjects and themes.

Step 4 – Segment your social content

Rather than bombarding potential users with all your social advocacy content, enable them not only to select the channels they want to see your posts from, but the themes they want you to share with them. Otherwise your programme will quickly lose its appeal if your customers must hunt through an overpopulated timeline to select the content that is most relevant for their needs and their own followers.

Step 5 – Reward and incentivise 

A good social advocacy programme needs regular maintenance. Incentivising and rewarding your best followers for ongoing use of your programme and for promoting to other potential followers is a vital component of your ongoing communications plan.

From social media to socially useful media

Social media advocacy programmes can be powerful brand amplification tools. If you are involved in a social media strategy for a brand whose customers or followers are interested and engaged enough to willingly promote your social media content, then it is a tool you should consider adding to your communications armoury.

There have been some real success stories with for instance locally popular franchises in major chains, where the local staff are valued more than the parent brand, through to professional membership bodies, whose thought leadership when clearly serving society’s interests is always something members are keen to promote.

Think of social media advocacy as the missing link between word of mouth marketing and branded social content. Do it well and watch your social engagement and brand amplification soar!

Craig Hurring has around 20 years of marketing and communications experience. Originally working in financial services marketing with HSBC, he has spent the last decade working with membership organisations and education providers to identify ways to help better align their brand, marketing and communications output to their business strategy. 

Image courtesy of flickr user mkhmarketing

Posted in Editor's Picks, Public Relations, Social Media
One comment on “Social media advocacy: next level engagement
  1. Dawn Gribble says:

    Social Media Advocacy is not an overnight process, it takes time to set up, build and engage, but it is worth the effort as not only does it increase your reach and brand recognition, but it encourages stronger ties and growth with your employees, and makes social media work for your company.

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