Effective and substantial social media strategy is based solely on advocacy. One advocate can deliver a thousand allies and many sales effectively.
Advocacy is about influence to change minds, re-frame arguments, inspire social movements and vary purchase decisions. Traditionally, advocacy is the realm of lobbyists, litigators, not-for-profits and public education. However with the advent of social media, advocacy is expanded to influence our networks, relationships, communities, communication and purchasing decisions.
There is a perception that “pure” advocacy is hard to measure and evaluate, and therefore is often the less travelled strategy. Likes and followers are left; initial engagement dwindles as opposed to efforts evolved into an advocacy program.
The importance of relationship building
All advocacy efforts share a common theme: it is to target a specific customer type who has the power to influence. Often companies do this in a traditional sense through government and community relations, or getting close to some bigwigs. Rarely do they look at their own customer base as an opportunity to relationship build and create a team of advocates.
Using economic psychology techniques, advocacy programs identify key individual’s traits; their DNA, and their propensity to advocate in a “pure” sense, driving an un-incentivized recommendation.
To do this you need to evaluate:
- Who has a voice?
- Who can bring about change?
- What are their opinion scales? (not followers)
How often are they referred to for category-related advice? What is their demography, sociometry, digital trace and so on?
Before you begin the relationship-building process you need to understand:
- How you raise awareness “Knowledge about the issue, product, service”
- How you will gain allies “Take action allies”
- How you turn allies into champion advocates “Champion advocates work on their own impetus”
Underlying this work is an advocate content strategy that frames the purpose, defines what sets it apart, and informs to encourage action and recommendation.
Advocacy is a process of an ongoing relationship-building program: Engage > Build Awareness > Gain Allies > Win Champions
Social media and the advocate
The rise of social media and mobile has given tools for advocates. There are many examples, especially in the social causes space, which show the power of bolstering advocacy using these social tools. It is important to note, however, that social media is just a tool. There needs to be strategic context and understanding in a greater sense of what advocacy can deliver.
Once advocacy is activated it need to be acted on real-time. This can cause challenges for organisations that are not agile or responsive by nature. Advocacy by its very nature is nimble, fast and reactive. Companies need to have plans in place to keep up and respond. Monitoring is a critical part of any advocacy program.
It is the lifeblood of an advocacy program. It requires visibility, transparency, authenticity and nurturing, like any relationship. Relationships survive on great communications.
Advocates must be credible sources, they have a 3 C profile; Connected, Credible and Charismatic. Your advocates are champions; they are the “go to source”.
Ensure you clarify what success looks like. What impact do you want your advocates to achieve for you? What influence are you trying for? What outcomes do you expect? Over what time period are you looking to assess the program?
- Create an ongoing relationship-building cycle
- Make sure you clarify your approach and understand your advocates DNA.
- Make an outcomes chain, the “what and when” of your scope.
- Ask the right questions
- Measure your work and be willing to adjust your approach
Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.