Forget everything you think you know about marketing; today’s biggest, baddest and boldest advertising advocate isn’t in the boardroom. It’s not even on major media outlets. Instead, today’s brand advocates are just as likely to be found sitting in the back of a college classroom, waiting to pick up the dry-cleaning or simply surfing the Internet during a coffee break. In short, brand advocates are the regular users and consumers of products and services. What is behind this transition? In short, the power of the people to use, consume and review items and services thanks to social media. As a major social media consulting firm, we see firsthand how the power of the people is able to transform business, signal major shifts in user preference and even generate outstanding new ideas for a fraction of the cost required to launch a traditional advertising campaign.
Of course, it could be argued that perhaps we are a bit biased… afterall, our business is social media marketing! So, let’s take an objective look at the data to determine if the power of the people is all it’s cracked up to be in the advertising arena. We think you will agree, the stat’s speak for themselves!
People versus Paid Advertising
The first major shift is the tendency for consumers to distrust paid advertising. In the early days of advertising, radio and then later television were so new and novel that people had a tendency to put a lot of faith into the message without stopping to consider the source. As people became more media savvy, they also became less inclined to put blind faith into any form of paid advertising creating an ever growing competition for attention, higher cost and less impressive results. In contrast, most consumers place a very high value on personal testimonial from actual users especially those with whom they have a personal relationship. In fact, independent marketing research has found social media marketing and other forms of brand advocacy communications are able to dramatically influence buying patterns primarily because they cannot be bought! Not only is this a big break for small business owners who cannot hope to outspend big business when competing for advertising space but it provides a distinct advantage to those hoping to break into an industry, capitalize on local trends or even enter the nationwide arena. For instance:
- Over 60% of viewers consider buying a brand, product or service
- Over 20% actually purchase the product or become a client.
- Roughly 17% think about it but continue to compare options and alternatives.
Clearly, the results are impressive. The power of the people made possible via social media marketing is a potent influence upon the purchasing decisions of friends and family. By now, savvy small business owners should be wonder if there is a way to capitalize on this trend in order to maximize the effectiveness of every social media marketing initiative. There is. But it does take time, a lot of experience and expertise.
What is a Brand Advocate?
Brand advocates are a special breed of clients or consumers which tend to be highly vocal, highly visible and highly able to influence others. Let’s take a look at each of these traits in more detail below.
Brand advocates are very active. If they like something or someone, they make a point of telling others. Unlike other clients, brand advocates do this routinely with 30% recommending up to four brands, products or services per year, just under 40% recommend 4-10, 16% of brand advocates recommend 10 to 15 per year and the remaining 16% recommend more than 15 business brands, products or services annually. To put it another way, just over 10% will recommend a product or service several times each week and nearly one out of three will do so at least once per week. Stop to consider this statistic. Instead of having to send out a blast, imagine the impact on your business by cultivating a relationship with 10 brand advocates in your local area. What would happen if you had 100 of them? Or 1,000? You get the idea. This is a powerful tool made all the more impressive because they cannot be bought and are highly effective at attracting the attention of others.
Another interesting feature about brand advocates is their tendency to have larger than average social networks. For instance, as of early 2012, the average social media user has 200 to 450 contacts in their social network versus an average of 300 to 600 for brand advocates with the top 20% showing more than 500. Top brand advocates tend to have even larger networks. For instance, a quick look at some of the most active brand advocates online via the Amazon Vine and/or top 100 to 1000 reviewers, also shows a strong correlation with larger social media networks.
Widespread Interest Areas
Contrary to popular opinion, brand advocates are not always early adopters although in general, they tend not to be laggards. They also tend to have a wide variety of interest areas and make both business and consumer related recommendations. To put it another way, they are as active personally as they are professionally creating a net positive result for those that are able to tap into their ultra active network of influence. So, what do brand advocates recommend? Just about everything imaginable!
- 25% recommend technology
- 15% dining and restaurants
- 14% entertainment
- 10% household goods
- 10% food, beverages and tobacco
- 7% health and fitness related
- 7% travel and hospitality
- 4% automotive
- 4% fashion and apparel
What Tools Do They Use?
Brand advocates tend to be extremely active both in real life as online. These are the modern day example of “word of mouth marketing” taken to an entirely new level. For the purpose of this article, we have removed reviewers on places like Amazon or other retails sites since they comprise only about 5% of current users. Instead, average social media sites are compared. As might be expected, Facebook is the clear leader with one out of ever y three brand advocates spreading the word via the world’s biggest and most popular social media site. In fact, small business owners may be surprised to find that Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn all comprise only about 1% each…a less than surprising result given the character limitation associated with Twitter and the business association of LinkedIn.
Super Brand Advocates
Last but not least, there is yet another level of brand advocates considered the power user among all consumers; the super brand advocate. These ultimate networkers comprise the top 10 to 15 percent of all brand advocates and recommend dozens of brands, products and services each week. They have much larger than average individual personal networks and routinely write reviews, make suggestions and share experiences with others for no other reason than a desire to be helpful. Fewer than 1% receive any incentive or reward for making a recommendation and among those, the general rate of reception is lower than average.