6 Powerful Tips to Build Your Retail Brand with Brand Advocates

Talitha Loftus
Talitha Loftus
Marketing Manager

In the empowerment economy, consumers have a variety of platforms on which to be heard, and their comments can carry tremendous influence in their communities. Key for retailers is harnessing the newfound power of brand advocates to build awareness, educate consumers and foster long-term customer relationships.

Word-of-mouth marketing is not new. People have always talked about their experiences, emotions and needs. It’s never stopped being important, however when social media and online reviews boomed, brands had no choice but to explore other forms of marketing.

In the past, you could tell consumers whatever you wanted, when you wanted and how you wanted and they would listen. Not only did television commercials, billboard adverts, and newspaper inserts get people’s attention, it got their trust. It is inevitable that with the fall of traditional outbound marketing there is no doubt that influencer marketing is becoming one of the most effective ways to attract shoppers.

Now don’t get me wrong, a beguiling television advert will still catch the eye of the everyday consumer, but the landscape has changed. In fact, studies conducted by Nielsen, Global Trust in Advertising Report proves that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above other all forms of advertising.

So what does this mean for your brand?

In this prevailing social, mobile and transparency culture, we’re blessed with endless access to information and we know it. There’s always something to say, be it positive or negative: it can go either way. But when online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70 percent of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust messages on this platform above any other forms of marketing — it’s about time we look at building a brand advocate culture.

But what exactly is a brand advocate?

Brand advocates are people who love your product or service so much they’re eager to tell others about it — whether via social media or in real life, on their blog or in a publication. Brand advocates can be online influencers with millions of social media followers, or people who are active or well-respected in their communities.

6 Powerful tips to attract and engage with brand advocates

The ultimate goal for retailers is to cultivate non-paid advocates and micro-influencers to share positive product reviews and proactive recommendations about their brands. But, in order to cultivate followers who will champion the benefits of your brand, you need to make a concerted effort to first attract them.

1 – Get to know your audience

Defining your target market or niche is the single most important business decision you can make as an entrepreneur.

~  Saskia Gregory

In the wise words of Seth Goden, “everyone is not your customer.” Before identifying your brand advocates, get to know your audience. Explore their online networking and analyze their social media accounts to understand who and what they are inspired by. Knowing your market will help you identify the right influencers.

2 – Listen to what people are saying

Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.

~  Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

People are probably talking about your brand without you even knowing it. Analyze your brand’s current social following and take note of people who are talking about your business in a positive light. There are plenty of online tools that allow you to monitor conversations, but as a starting point, identify company hashtags, set Google Alerts, and observe comments and online reviews. If you’re already doing that, consider further adding these online applications:

  • Followerwonk. This Moz’ service helps tracking your followers activity, location and general interests. It allows you to easily compare accounts and organize your followers into various groups to provide them the best experience.
  • ReFollow. It allows you to find the audience right for you and manage your relationships with it the most useful and effective way. Check out your Twitter followers, identify potential advocates and get insights on how to engage them.
  • Klout. It’s the most known tool for tracking your social media activity, monitoring followers’ actions connected with your brand and finding the great content for sharing. It also offers suggestions on Twitter accounts to follow.
  • BuzzSumo. It is a great tool for finding what content works better for various audiences and monitoring influencers that can make a real impact on your business.

3 – Be fussy when it comes to identifying your brand advocates

When it comes to scouting your ideal brand advocates be fussy; just because they have a million followers doesn’t mean they are going to be the perfect fit. Justin Bieber is known as one of the most “influential” social media users. But, would his tweet about your cosmetic company really bring in sales? Maybe for a select few, but I highly doubt it. Make sure you select an influencer who engages with the same media channels as your audience – are they actively posting blogs or uploading Instagram selfies?

4 – Introduce yourself, but remember to be patient

A good relationship, doesn’t just happen. They take time, patience and two people who truly want to be together.”

~ unknown

You’ve established your golden list, now it’s time you introduce yourself. If it’s not a personal phone call, turn to social media or email to get their attention. Your partnership with someone who is passionate about your brand needs to be mutually beneficial. And, remember, it takes time to pursue a relationship; don’t bombard them with information they don’t want to, or need to, hear.

5 – Gain exposure by having a blog

If you don’t have a blog, it’s about time you get one. A regularly updated blog can be a excellent way to not only share company news, but also establish a brand personality, connect with influencers, and highlight emerging talents in your industry. Not only will having a blog draw attention to your brand, but it will give you the opportunity and platform to feature guest bloggers (e.g.; your influential brand advocates). 

6 – Employees are your most valuable asset

Build with advocacy, follow with influence. Your employees are your biggest brand advocates.

~ Jay Baer

Lastly, your employees are without a doubt one of the most untapped and organic sources of influence. Employee-generated content also represents an incredibly effective way to reinforce company culture and values, showing how these concepts practically translate into real behaviors and campaigns promoted by the people who make the company.  

Employees not only know a lot about what you do but they are often very enthusiastic about it.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @TalithaLoftus & @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.