As a company focused on enabling and scaling social media advocacy, we understand that one of the most difficult and important questions for marketers looking to create a successful and sustainable advocacy program is, “how do you demonstrate long term value for your advocates?”
The value of an ongoing advocacy program for the brand is clear – an authentic new marketing channel powered by their employees/customers/partners/fans. For many brand marketers however, establishing and communicating the value for the participating advocate can be more challenging. One tactic that pre-dates many of today’s social networks is compensating an advocate (most commonly a blogger) through what are referred to as “pay to play” style campaigns. They are easy to run (brand pays per blog post on a specific topic), the numbers are nice (if the blogger has good traffic already) and the value to the advocate is clear – money.
However, we advise our clients to tread very carefully (and in some cases stay far away from) considering driving advocacy primarily and solely through these types of programs. Legal considerations, perception of the post and perception of the blogger, and even positioning of the solicitation (to avoid ‘who is this and what is this’ responses from the bloggers) are just some of the areas that could pose problems and lead to unexpected and unwanted consequences.
Here are one latest example, hot off the presses:
This morning you may have seen some press about a pay to play opportunity that was mistakenly pitched to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and Uncrunched. It backfired. Not only did the parties involved receive negative press, but the head of Google Webspam took notice and some news outlets are now suggesting that there could be Google search penalties for all involved.
All these reasons pale in comparison to one that is far more important, and one that we started this blog post with: ensuring long-term value.
The ideal way to establish long-term value to an influencer or advocate is by establishing a long-term relationship; one that is built on multiple dimensions of value for the advocate (and of course for the brand), and one that can steer (and stay) clear of the harsh side-effects of a purely transactional relationship.
At Dynamic Signal, we recommend instead that marketers focus on a more holistic approach to advocacy; one that is built on more than one dimension of value to the advocate. Potential monetary rewards, where deemed appropriate, are i) just one of the many ways to recognize the advocate’s contributions, and ii) carefully considered, explained, and disclosed. For employee advocates, recognition among peers, spotlighting of their activity and content within the company, and mentions of their advocacy efforts by higher-ups across the company, are just some examples of other dimensions of value creation. For external influencer advocates, syndication of their content via brand channels (with appropriate disclosures of course), social media mentions (e.g. tagging on the brand’s Facebook and Twitter channels), access to exclusive content, and even the opportunity to offer feedback to an upcoming/unreleased product or service, are some examples of value creation.
This is why our client services and product teams spend so much time thinking about creating an authentic and sustainable “value exchange” between brands and their advocates. If you are interested in speaking with a brand strategist about creating a custom advocate program and long-term value exchange for your brand, get in touch.