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SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
The amplification of brand advocacy is considered one of the primary virtues of social media marketing. A glowing 140-character tweet in response to a positive customer experience can reach thousands of potential customers. Also, new websites such as Glassdoor.com provide an outlet to post ratings about companies.
But marketers aren't taking sufficient advantage of social's role in encouraging brand champions, according to Irfan Kamal, global head-data, analytics and products at Social@Ogilvy.
“One of the biggest obstacles to improving marketing efficiency through advocacy is the perception that advocacy is not valuable,” Kamal said. “But the truth is quite different. Some data we've seen shows that customer testimonials and mentions represent as much as 80% of the reach of a marketing program.
“And that's just campaign exposure. Just as important are conversion rates and purchase effects. Word-of-mouth drives higher purchase rates.”
Currently, social brand advocacy isn't very pervasive, according to a new study by Social@Ogilvy. The company's “How to Build a Global Passion Brand” report found that just two of the 22 brands the company examined—hospitality company Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group and cosmetics brand Kiehl's—experienced more than 50% of social mentions that fell in the most-enthusiastic category. That's a level of advocacy the study called “passion.”
Further, even among satisfied customers, there's a large social advocacy gap. Social@Ogilvy's study found that only about 1% of social mentions are positive brand endorsements, even when a company's own studies show strong customer satisfaction rates. (Social@Ogilvy's study was based on a Radian6 analysis of about 7 million social media conversations around 22 international brands during the first six months of 2012. The final report was released this month.)
To help close the gap, brands can encourage advocacy volume, reward passion and amplify reach, Kamal said. He suggested offering such rewards as special access to company executives at events, early access to new products or programs, or simply reminding customers to mention their positive experiences to others on social sites.
Potential advocates are abundant among b2b decision-makers, according to a new report from Forrester Research. The report, “The Social Behaviors of Your B2B Customers,” found 75% of b2b decision-makers post ratings, reviews or comments on blogs. This outstrips decision-makers who create blogs or other online content (56%) and those who post updates about themselves (47%).
Many b2b marketers “believe that senior people are either too busy to be engaging with marketers' companies or people via social platforms, or that they are not interested in doing so,” said Zachary Reiss-Davis, author of the Forrester report. “Big mistake. The reality is that senior-level decision-makers are significantly more willing than less-senior colleagues to use social at work.”
Reiss-Davis added: “This is an opportunity for your brand because senior decision-makers are more likely to be trusted influencers than are less-senior employees.”
While Facebook is not generally viewed as a business-oriented social forum, the site does have potential for encouraging brand advocacy: 57% of Facebook users have “liked” a brand or vendor on the site, and 51% have posted on a brand's Facebook Page, according to the Forrester report.
Twitter is equally potent as an advocacy channel, with 58% of users retweeting posts. LinkedIn, by contrast, has virtually no advocacylike activity on its site.
Forrester's report was based on an online survey of 382 business decision-makers in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. conducted during the first quarter of this year.
Companies should not forget that their own employees make up a source of powerful potential brand advocates, said Kim Johnston, VP-marketing and alliances at virtualization technology company Parallels Inc.
“As social media has exploded, those closest to your brand have more opportunities than ever to voice their opinions,” Johnston said.
Companies should even consider employees who leave as potential advocates, Johnston said.
“Always have employees exit with as positive a sense of their future as possible, regardless of the circumstances, and the knowledge that if they performed well they will be welcomed back,” she said.
Johnston said that even rejected job applicants, if treated well, can take away a positive experience of the company and spread that experience among others socially.
“A well-managed hiring process can help create advocates,” she said. “Value candidates' time and treat those who are unqualified with respect. Leave them feeling like they wish they had a chance to work for you. This is completely in your control.”The Conversation: What are you doing to encourage brand advocacy on social sites?