Should You Pay Brand Advocates? (Part 2)

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In part 1 of this piece, I began describing the Dynamic Signal team’s stance on the right way to incentivize and reward brand advocates. In this post, I’ll continue describing the tenets we take to heart.

Verify that influencers and fans have a pre-existing affinity to your brand before working closely with them in an advocacy relationship. This goes back to authenticity. A person who doesn’t genuinely like your brand won’t be convincing when they recommend it, even if you’ve motivated them to do so with incentives. Even if you have identified an influencer who holds sway over a large audience, it won’t be worthwhile to work with them if they are merely a hired gun who could care less about your brand and is only recommending it for the rewards you’re offering. They don’t need to be a fanatic who has your brand tattooed on their left arm – you’re just looking to confirm that their actions are driven more by intrinsic motivations than by external rewards.

In the case of a Facebook fan or Twitter follower, you already know they love your brand, right? Well, maybe. A new study by the IBM Institute for Business Value reveals that Facebook users’ motivations for liking a brand are not always what the brand thinks they are. Some fans become fans merely because they want to get free or discounted stuff, not because they truly support the brand.

 

So how can you find out which fans have a genuine allegiance to your brand? Start bringing all of your fans opportunities to participate in brand advocacy campaigns, and track their individual participation and performance. For fans who are only beginning to participate in these types of collaborations, offer modest incentives such as peer recognition, marks of distinction, and perhaps rewards that further perpetuate your marketing efforts, such as branded apparel or invites to brand-sponsored events. You’ll quickly learn which fans have a true love for your brand and an authentic inclination to recommend it.

The most important reward for your early performers should be their ascendance to higher levels in your community of advocates. That leads me to the next recommendation.

Create a system of levels for your influencers and fans, with each progressive level representing a higher degree of closeness with your brand. We feel that brands should be continually engaged in a process of evaluating their relationships with fans and influencers. Those who have distinguished themselves with consistent high performance in brand advocacy campaigns, who have shown that they can reach a large and engaged audience, and who clearly reflect the values of the brand should be thought of as star players. These star players should quickly ascend the levels and get the recognition and rewards they deserve.

But what exactly are levels? Think of a level as a measure of the strength of the bond between the advocate and your brand. Higher levels indicate higher relationship strength. With each higher level, the advocate enjoys greater access and rewards. The highest levels are especially exclusive. Think of higher-level members as your most trusted advisors. In addition to working closely with you on complex brand advocacy projects, they can bring you important feedback from their audiences, and valuable advice on how to position your brand and design your products.

You can use any number of levels, and you can make the rewards and access available at each level whatever you want them to be. What’s important is that you make fans and influencers aware of the levels. Clearly describe the benefits of each level and what it takes to get there. How you describe the level system is also important. Don’t let it feel like a chore to attain higher levels. In fact, ideally it will feel like a game. Gamification is here to stay – see for example Gartner Research’s recent post on this emerging trend.

In Part 3 of this piece, I’ll talk more about how to work with and reward your highest-level advocates.

Post Author

Jim Larrison

Jim Larrison is the Co-Founder & General Manager at Dynamic Signal. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s direction, product innovation, and market strategy to become a global provider of SaaS based advocate and social marketing enterprise solutions for leading Global 2K brands. Jim lives in the Chicago area with his wife and two sons. Jim is an influential movie fanatic, local politico, blogger, and photographer. On weekends, you can catch him on the sidelines of his sons' football or lacrosse games with a few Nikon cameras around his neck.