As more and more brands develop ambassador programs on social media, marketers and community managers are on the lookout for the perfect combination of ingredients – a recipe – for building a brand ambassador program with a high likelihood of achieving success.
While each brand’s “secret sauce” is going to be somewhat unique, there are a lot of ingredients that are common to all or most ambassador programs.
We uncovered quite a few common and distinct ingredients in a recent podcast recording with Justine Velcich, Manager of Global Community Programs at Hootsuite. Over the last three years, Hootsuite’s ambassador program has grown from 55 ambassadors to 1,400. That rapid growth alone sets the Hootsuite ambassador program apart as a model of success. My co-host for this podcast is Mel Attia, V.P. of Marketing at Vanilla Forums.
Some of the foundation ingredients you might expect to find in every brand ambassador program recipe include criteria for being accepted into the program. In the majority of programs, ambassadors should:
- Use and understand the brand’s product or service
- Be very active and well respected among a large number of connections and/or followers on social media
- Speak well of the brand already
- Be self-starters who initiate brand extending activities in communities where the brand has little or no presence
- Want to have a deeper relationship with the brand
In addition to adhering to these criteria for accepting ambassadors, brands need to measure the ongoing success of their program and act on those measurements to achieve even greater success. For any brand to know how well its program is succeeding, at the very least, it needs to track online chatter and measure ambassadors’ rates of engagement.
These common ingredients are the bare essentials. In other words, this is the broth. To make soup, you’ll have to add some distinct (and distinctively flavorful) ingredients as well.
In developing and managing a brand ambassador program, it’s essential that ambassadors be treated as human beings. This may sound trite, but it’s a point that can easily be lost in our data-driven world, even on social media.
Every ambassador has a reason why they’re going out of their way to amplify a brand on social media. Maybe their business is helped by being seen as a brand authority. Perhaps people who use the brand are good prospects for them. Or, maybe it’s something completely different.
Program managers must know these three things about their ambassadors:
- Who are they?
- What makes them tick?
- How can you help them?
These human interactions are what distinguishes one brand ambassador program from another. And, if a brand isn’t willing to forge a deeper relationship with its ambassadors, it probably should pass on setting up a program in the first place. It’s the human-to-human connection that makes these programs thrive.
WIIFT – What’s In It For Them?
Ambassadors want to help you, but no one wants to be taken for granted. And, while you don’t want to turn your volunteer ambassador program into a paid endorsement scheme, you do want to give something back to your ambassadors.
Here are a just few ideas of things you can do for your ambassadors:
- Sneak previews of new products and services
- Ambassador recognition events
- Special training for ambassadors only
- Digital ambassador badges that lift their authority
- Ambassador swag
The more you know about your ambassadors, the easier it will be to find meaningful ways to thank them for their participation and help.
As Justine Velcich said in our podcast, “Don’t ever lose touch with the human aspect of community building.”
There, in a nutshell, is your secret sauce.