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Advocacy Marketing Is The New Buzzword
Advocacy marketing, the more effective expression of influencer marketing, is rising but it is not new.
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More than a year back, Instagram tweeted the launch of “a weekly series that spotlights people from around the world who are sparking positive change.” They called them #Advocates. Recently the platform has aggressively promoted #Advocates for indigenous rights, climate justice, racial justice, and more through their Reels.
A savvy person would read the writing on the wall. The shift from influencers to advocates is already taking place. But, at its very essence, advocacy marketing is not new or even just a buzzword.
It has occurred with the regularity of a leitmotif through decades of marketing, surviving under different monikers – word-of-mouth, customer success marketing, referral marketing, employee marketing, etc.
Getting to know advocacy marketing
Advocacy marketing is the practice of systematically mobilizing brand advocates to generate social proof for prospects. What makes a brand advocate? Happy, loyal customers are the biggest advocates, but fans who aspire to own a brand product are equally powerful.
Advocates endorse their favourite brand. They support and defend it. But more importantly, create exceptionally effective content and share it organically with their friends and network.
The value of brand advocates
Who do people trust more? A person they know who recommended a Smartphone brand or a random ‘influencer’ on social media paid to promote the same brand? How many times have you given mental space to a brand simply because a friend said, “You’ve got to try Tesla; it’s simply brilliant?”
That’s the value of true brand advocates - unadulterated trust because they cannot be bought. They can be rewarded or encouraged to try a product or service, but paying them to recommend a brand is not an option. The only way to secure their loyalty is to deliver an excellent product and exceptional customer experience.
Because advocates are relationship and affinity driven, they provide validation and positive relevance to brands. They not only build up (and, at times, protect) a brand but also influence customer purchase decisions.
The necessity for advocacy marketing
About two years back, the influencer marketing industry came under fire. prominent influencers were stuffing their engagement metrics through bought followers and bots. Because trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback, brands lost their faith in influencers.
At the same time, fans and followers turned sceptical of influencer-brand collaborations. Influencers were solely driven by pecuniary gain, which made their bogus enthusiasm evident. The so-called powerful voices began to fail to amplify messages and reach.
That is why influencer marketing evolved into advocacy marketing. Advocates are grassroots brand fans, and engaging them for digital campaigns adds a layer of authenticity. Using these real and relatable people with sufficient social following enables, encourages, and amplifies a brand’s presence with engagement rates going through the roof.
With advocacy marketing, a brand gets an advocate already in love with the product, and that authenticity shines in the content. This legitimacy pushes buyers move faster through the sales funnel. Hence, the average conversion rate through earned media like advocacy marketing is 5%, while paid media benchmarks at 1 to 2%!
Finding your brand advocates
60% of consumers and 70% of Millennials accept that social content from friends and family impacts buying decisions. That’s the power of brand advocates but crossing your fingers and hoping for user-generated content is not a shrewd tactic.
While some advocates will keep recommending brands to their circle, most don’t think of sharing your latest content, product, or service. A brand must find its existing customers, empower them to create organic content, and reward them for turning into vocal brand advocates.
More than just finding the voices, they must maintain a solid stream of such word-of-mouth messages or trustworthy success stories to create an effective marketing strategy.
Investing in advocacy marketing
In the marketing universe, influencer marketing emerged as one of the most innovative facets, reaching a $6.5 Billion value in a blink of an eye. But like any other nascent industry, pivots were inevitable, and advocacy marketing is the latest.
At a time, where consumers are increasingly becomingly ad-blind, and interruption marketing is failing prodigiously, ROI with advocacy marketing campaigns reach an eye-watering 650%. Those who ignore it, do so at their peril.
Influencers might share a funny or entertaining post on their socials if a brand compensated them for it. But advocates, they work hard at creating credible content, which gives followers the impetus to learn about the brand, try it, or buy it.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.