If you’re thinking about starting a brand ambassador or brand advocate program, you certainly have an idea of the value.  Increasing brand awareness.  Your best customers marketing on your behalf.  Involving the influential early adopters.  Getting user feedback.  Forming genuine relationships with your customers.  We particularly like how Hootsuite’s CEO Ryan Holmes sums up the brand’s early growth through implementing an ambassador program.

But, as we’re all aware, understanding the value and actually beginning and running a successful program are two very different things.  Here are some of the common questions (and answers of course) related to creating a successful program.

Who do I choose as my ambassadors?

There are many answers to this question, but in general, we have found that many brands choose the application path.  This allows brands to look for advocates that fit certain qualities and it also allows them to see who is most dedicated and best fits the brand values.  This can be achieved through a simple survey or application and allows the marketing team to potentially choose a diverse group that fits a clear set of criteria.  Other methods include observing who is already social sharing or hosting events on your behalf, leaving the program very open or allowing anyone who wants to be an ambassador to participate or holding a competition.


How do I engage these ambassadors?

Engagement is a lot easier if you have an ambassador platform or community to do it, because you can easily see and measure everything in one place.  This does not have to be expensive and can allow you to suggest different activities to ambassadors, let them interact with each other and offer encouragement back to them.

How much time does this take to do well (really)?

As with anything, it depends on you.  If you’re hosting lots of events and special activities for ambassadors, it can be a lot more time intensive.  Or, if you’re planning on using email to communicate with advocates, plan for a lot of time spent going back and forth and answering questions.  If you put time into developing a strategy and figuring out how you’re going to keep in touch with ambassadors from the outset, however, you’ll be in good shape to spend anywhere from a couple of hours to ten hours a week.  With ambassador program management software, they can spend a couple of hours a week communicating with ambassadors, adding encouragement or new activities and looking at analytics.

What should the ambassadors do on my behalf?

Here are a few activities that we like here, with examples from Urban Outfitters, Converse, Evernote and Stupid Cancer, to name a few.  Depending on whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand, activities could include:

  • hosting user meetups or Google hangouts
  • sharing brand or product news on social media
  • working at an event or booth on behalf of the brand
  • blogging
  • sharing photo content
  • writing product reviews
  • sharing product samples or brochures
  • hosting a volunteer event
  • speaking at a conference or other event
  • creating content, such as photos and videos
  • etc. etc. etc.

How do I prove out the value of a program to senior management?

This is usually the difference between using an ambassador platform and trying to do everything manually, because to show value (particularly to those more skeptical than you!), you need data and metrics and analytics.  Determine what metrics are most important to your organization – ambassador engagement (and by amount of time or number of activities), ambassador satisfaction, amount of new content produced, amount of content/news shared, impact on sales numbers, number of ambassadors involved…then use a platform to actually track these metrics.  Trying to do with your own spreadsheet is doable, but certainly more time consuming.

How do I reward them?

Again, depends on the brand, but some of the best programs use free product, the opportunity to try out new products or features first, getting prominently featured on the website or social media, getting invited to special events, cool swag.  Money can sometimes be used, but this isn’t always the best motivator, particularly when you’re trying to form long-lasting relationships with the people who are your top fans.


How do I ensure that I don’t lose them 6 months from now?

By listening to them!  Ask for feedback on what’s working with the program and what’s not working.  Reward them according to really awesome accomplishments.  Allow them to gain more benefit by getting to interact with each other.  Encourage them and recognize all the amazing things they do for you.  And lastly, understand that there may be certain times in life when an ambassador has something else going on in life and has to step back for a few weeks or months.  If you appreciate them, they’ll be back and they’ll be fans for life.

How many ambassadors is the right number?

Many brands start with programs in the ~25-50 ambassador range to keep it a tight-knit, exclusive group.  Others start with 100 or 200, particularly when they have a college program and want to get good reach across universities in U.S. (or even the world).  Other brands have a thousand or more.  The most important thing is picking your strategy – do you want to keep it tight-knit and really know all of your ambassadors?  Or is it more important to you to involve a large number of people doing more limited types of activities?


What other questions come to mind for you?  We’d love to hear what’s on your mind so we can keep a list of everything that keeps you up at night!

Photo credits: Flickr, Susanne Nilsson; Flickr, Upupa4me; Flickr, Clyde Robinson

A version of this post appeared on the Upward Labs blog.