Why Brands Can't Leave Advocacy To Chance

August 29, 2013

Editor's Note: This post has been syndicated from the EMEA Marketing Solutions blog. A modified version of this post orignally appeared on Marketing Magazine.

Brand Advocacy LinkedIn

Satisfied customers are one of a brand’s most valuable assets. However, marketers risk wasting that asset if they fail to activate potential advocates through social media.

According to a study by the agency social@ ogilvy, the majority of satisfied customers are a silent majority, keeping their positive experiences to themselves. Most satisfied customers never advocate for a brand on social media – and that means that many brands never benefit from the amplification that such advocacy gives their marketing messages.

The social@ ogilvy research reveals a huge disparity between brand-recorded customer satisfaction scores and the number of occasions when customers shared those positive views with their networks. US hotel groups, for example, regularly reported satisfaction scores of 80% or more, yet this translated into only one piece of social media advocacy per 100 stays.

The failure of satisfied customers to advocate en masse for their favored brands bolsters criticisms of measures like the Net Promoter Score, which links stated satisfaction and “likelihood to recommend” to a brand’s potential for growth. Social@ ogilvy’s study hints at a significant piece missing from this picture; satisfaction does not translate into advocacy unless companies actively generate it.

For their own part, social@ ogilvy argue that brands must distinguish drivers of advocacy from drivers of satisfaction – what will compel your customers to spread the word about your brand rather than just getting a good feeling inside from choosing you? The study suggests that any brand has the potential to create advocates in this way. Five brands are cited as the most frequently advocated – two hotel brands, two skincare brands and one fashion retailer – with comments that are both positive and based on tangible features rather than emotion or general brand enthusiasm. The agency falsifies the belief that advocacy only occurs in certain categories.

On LinkedIn, we’ve seen strong evidence of the results brands can generate when they attend to the mechanics of advocacy, giving customers the tools, opportunity and – perhaps most importantly – the incentive to share positive views and experiences. It helps, of course, that LinkedIn members fit the profile most regularly identified for potential advocates. In the auto sector, for example, LinkedIn users are 53% more likely to have posted comments and reviews about cars on the internet. It helps, too, that on LinkedIn brands engage potential advocates in an environment where they are accustomed to sharing views in order to express their identity and develop their personal brand.  However, the most powerful results on LinkedIn are achieved by those brands that build on this potential, leveraging the inherent virility and advocacy potential of LinkedIn whereby comments are automatically shared across members’ networks. Dialogue with company followers and sponsored group members enables brands to identify the hot topics driving positive advocacy amongst members; Recommendation Ads, Company Updates and Sponsored Updates provide an opportunity to trigger that advocacy at scale.

As an example, Samsung Mobile used targeted follow company ads to recruit the most likely and most influential potential advocates as company followers – but then built determinedly on this initial engagement. The brand asked followers about the content that they were most interested in, before delivering that content, and so encouraging its followers to comment and share their views with their networks. For the launch of the Galaxy Note II, Samsung Mobile extended such advocacy beyond the LinkedIn network itself, using an API and campaign microsite to incentivise members to share their reviews.

In doing so, the brand demonstrated the huge value that advocacy can bring when properly harnessed. Samsung Mobile was able to target a global audience of 20 million through LinkedIn members’ networks. Brands that do not know how to turn satisfied customers into advocates are forced to pay a great deal more for the same reach and results.

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How are you driving advocacy with your customers? Find out more about how you can succeed using content marketing on LinkedIn here.

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