A bit of bad news…Social Media doesn’t scale. If you are a successful company then you will have more customers than staff. Social media in its purest form should facilitate people-to-people communications and that means talking to your customers on a regular basis, so you don’t need a degree in mathematics to work out the disparity!
Jeremiah Owyang writes an excellent post on the process to create a customer advocacy program which can extend the available resources for companies active in social media. Coca Cola’s Facebook Fan Page is still run by two fans, BMW have just taken control of a Fan page set up by a fan (now with over 1m fans) and will now use it for customer engagement, so there is evidence of customers taking on the role of brand ambassador and organizing like-minded individuals around consumer brands.
This applies to all organizations but I think is particularly apt for sports and entertainment brands, as for them the volume of interest and interaction is magnified. For example, Man Utd has about 600m fans worldwide…even smaller sports brands will have hundreds of thousands of fans who are all potential customers and active participants on the official social channels.
What is their biggest asset can also be their undoing in social media. They have armies of people gagging to talk to them and wanting their content. This is great news but creates a massive issue if you are going to engage with them on a regular basis. The answer is…use them. Empower them. Consumer brands would pay a King’s ransom to have such loyal customers and sports brands can create advocacy programs much easier than their counterparts. Here are some simple steps to go about it
Find the influential voices in the social community
They will already be active on the forums, unofficial networks and supporters’ club groups. Spend some time in these communities and see who looks like a good ‘signing’!
Bring them into the organization
Empower them. You won’t need to remunerate them…they love your brand and the value they will get is not a financial one. The ‘badge value’ they will attribute will, in most cases, be all the reward they need.
Let go of control
To make social communications scale, brands have to comfortable with customers doing their job for them. Make sure you have vetted them and they have signed up to the clubs’ social media policy (create one if you haven’t already) but the more freedom you give them, and others in the community to take the brand message and spread it in their own way…the better.
Once the brand advocacy program has got some legs, you can increase the activity and look for the next club Facebook admin, team tweeter, message board admin. By making this a competition you will be increasing engagement with the community.
Let the community self support
Apple’s support community is almost entirely self-supported. No one gets paid for moderating Wikipedia. People on the web like to contribute to projects which mean something to them. Sports fans will be up for this, so with regular content from the official sources coupled with an army of brand ambassadors…all of sudden you can have a social media ‘team’. Sure, they will need to be managed, but it is going to be a far more efficient use of your available resources.
What examples do you have of brand advocacy programs being successful? What do you think some barriers to this working might be? Would love to hear from you, but what do dead birds symbolize?