As brands enjoy growing success on social media, many choose to amplify their reach and further their social media success via volunteer brand ambassadors. In a recent podcast recording with Justine Velcich, Manager of Global Community Programs at Hootsuite, we discussed the key factors behind Hootsuite’s Brand Ambassador Program, which has grown from 55 ambassadors to 1,400 in only three years.

My co-host for this podcast is Mel Attia, V.P. of Marketing at Vanilla Forums.

Fans First

For any brand ambassador program to succeed, a brand needs to first develop a cadre of enthusiastic fans on social media. Typically, these are connections who use the brand’s product, share their content, and respond positively to the opportunity of having a closer relationship with the brand and the people behind it.

This last point is especially important, because a brand may not be willing to forge the deep connections with its ambassadors that are necessary to keep their brand ambassador program active and alive. Without that commitment, long-term success is unlikely.

Choose Your Ambassadors Wisely

Brand ambassadors can play a valuable role in extending a brand’s reach in social media. Many social media users may first become aware of the brand via an ambassador. That means trusting ambassadors to create the right first impression.

Obviously, you can’t let just anyone become an ambassador. You need an application process, which means you also need standards. One way to develop those standards is to make a list of the characteristics of a perfect ambassador, such as:

  • Enjoys a favorable reputation among a high number of connections/friends/followers
  • Uses the brand’s product(s) well and often
  • Posts frequently
  • Shares the brand’s content on a regular basis
  • Desires a stronger connection to the brand

Add as many characteristics as you need to describe your bran’s ideal ambassador.

Balancing Quantity & Quality

Since most applicants will not come as a package deal with all of the traits you seek, you will need to determine which characteristics you can live without, and which are absolute prerequisites.

If your program is fairly new or has yet to attract a lot of ambassadors, the focus should be on quantity, and you will need to be more accepting of applicants who do not meet all of your criteria. This is true for two reasons:

  1. Creating a critical mass will give the community of brand ambassadors some energy of its own. This energy will spark new and innovative ideas and will feed the enthusiasm of your ambassadors.
  2. Until the program has a meaningful sample size, you can’t really be sure which characteristics you’ve specified are most relevant to the outcomes you seek. There will be a lot of learning involved.

From day one, you will want to track how much each of your ambassadors contributes to the success of your program. This information will help you refine your criteria for acceptance in the program.

As your brand ambassador program grows in size and becomes more influential, who should be an ambassador (and who should not) will be clarified by the data. At this point you will want to change the balance of your recruitment from relying heavily on quantity to being more driven by applicant quality.

Justine Velcich describes in our podcast how Hootsuite, which at first cast a large net for ambassadors, is transitioning from a quantity-driven to a quality-driven brand ambassador program.

On this Social Business Engine podcast episode you’ll discover:

  • How the Hootsuite Ambassador Community has grown from 55 users to 1,400 over three years
  • Why the Hootsuite Ambassador Community is now a part of the marketing organization’s makeup
  • The type of individuals that comprise the Hootsuite Ambassador Community and how their desire to communicate with each other has benefited Hootsuite
  • What you should look for in a brand ambassador, and the necessity of considering how you can help them

Featured on this episode:

You can listen to this podcast now by clicking here or, you can listen through a podcast player on your mobile device through iTunes or Stitcher. Subscribe to the Social Business Engine podcast to get weekly updates delivered to your inbox.