In my last post, I wrote about the importance of a brand advocacy program. Brand advocates can be a great blessing for a company to really connect with users and multiply the effectiveness of their communication and campaigns. However, not all advocates are the same. In this post, I will describe the 3 types of brand advocates and go into detail about the first type - the Casual Recommender.
Three Types of Brand Advocates
Brand advocates can be divided into 3 types, each with its own set of requirements and incentives which correspond to the level of trust and the potential effects that the advocate can have on the brand.
- Casual Recommenders - those who recommend a brand to others because they have had a good experience with it, either as a consumer themselves or positive exposure from others.
- Brand Insiders – people who love the brand and would readily participate in integrated activities, such as community support, feedback and content generation.
- Internal Advocates – internal employees who have both the expertise and the interests to participate regularly in the communities.
There are two keys to engaging casual recommenders – informing and enabling.
Informing means that they must be aware of the brand's products and services and have a good sense of the features they offer. This is achieved by establishing an effective communications program that reaches the largest possible audience. The greater the number of people who learn about the brand, the larger the potential pool of Casual Recommenders.
Enabling means that the company makes it very easy for someone who has learned about the brand to effectively tell others about it. This can be achieved with sharable content, adding share buttons to existing content, engagement platforms, or even simple re-tweet campaigns. When possible, use a landing page that contains everything needed for someone new to the brand to quickly understand the products or services and sign up/request more information. The landing page would have a short URL that Casual Recommenders could simply forward to interested parties. This short URL should also be featured on regular brand properies and integrated into products. These low barriers to entry will make recommending simple.
Everyone is potentially a Casual Recommender and in most cases, there isn't really a need to pre-identify them. Instead just follow the inform and enabling steps above.
For more advanced engagement, it can make sense to build a pool of identified advocates. There are two different philosophies for identifying Casual Recommenders. The first is that anyone who says that they are an advocate is one. In this case, companies would ask as many users as possible to self-identify as advocates, usually by a checkbox asking for permission to contact them in the future, or based on giving the company high ratings. The second is that those act like advocates are advocates. In this case, companies capture those who are already engaging in their communities or in social applications such as voting, sharing, sweepstakes, etc. Both philosophies are valid and should be used when possible, as enabled by the technology platforms in place.
Casual Recommenders do not require much in terms of incentives. Most often, their recommendations are based on a good personal experience. However, as the barriers and requirements for sharing increase, incentives such as prizes, branded goods and public recognition may be needed.
Next Steps for Casual Recommenders
- Develop the key information needed for Casual Recommenders to understand and share the brand's products and services. These should be based on common user and sales questions and be limited to the top 5 most frequent pieces of information
- Create the informational landing page with appropriate sharing buttons and calls to action.
- Add sharing capabilities to all properties, products and services
- Launch a communication plan that explains the key features and asks users to share
- Evaluate advocacy platforms to help enable the advanced identification and activation of Casual Recommenders.
Next time, I will talk about Brand Insiders - the brand advocates who live and breath your brand. In the meantime, have you seen any effective programs involving Casual Recommenders? What do you think that they did that was most effective?