A vital part of a modern business marketing department’s arsenal is using regular people with significant social media followings to raise brand awareness. Brand ambassadors can organically spread the word about a business and its products or services. [Related: Small Business Marketing Guide]
Brand ambassadors act as cheerleaders for your business, representing your company culture to the public. Here’s a look at what creating a brand ambassador program entails, how it can benefit your company and how to find effective brand ambassadors.
A brand ambassador program is a marketing campaign that puts your company’s message in the hands of ambassadors with specific goals in mind, such as improving sales, cultivating a reputation, and building brand recognition.
Brand ambassador programs can be temporary partnerships that last for a set time or ongoing relationships that last indefinitely. Either way, a brand ambassador partnership should involve a contract with negotiated compensation for the ambassador’s work and effort.
Besides driving sales and increasing awareness, brand ambassadors can provide additional benefits you can’t achieve with traditional marketing models.
With social media changing business in unique ways, brand ambassadors are a way to naturally tap into social channels.
“We believe one of the main benefits of having a brand ambassador program is to reap the benefits of social media and increase your social media presence,” said Matt Schmidt, CEO of Burial Insurance Pro. “Most ambassadors come with ‘online’ credibility and a large social media following.”
A brand ambassador’s principal medium is social media, particularly platforms that can acquire a sizable following – such as Instagram and YouTube.
Your brand ambassadors create content that features your business or product. Depending on your ultimate goal, ambassadors can drive interest in your industry using your business, or utilize your product or service in their regular content.
As part of the partnership with your brand ambassador, the content they create with your brand will be yours to keep and use again as you see fit. For example, you can repost this content on your own social media pages and business website.
A creative brand ambassador will make content that features your brand in a positive, fun way. This type of content has a long shelf life; you can post or share video reviews, demonstrations or funny promo videos multiple times.
In the social media marketing world, there are clear superstars guaranteed to get your products or services in front of thousands – or perhaps millions of eyes – akin to a celebrity endorsement.
The number of eyes potentially exposed to your brand is quantifiable by the ambassador’s follower count, and those numbers will reflect your ambassador’s prices. But you don’t have to go after the biggest Instagram celebrities or YouTube stars.
Instead, consider ambassadors with smaller audiences they regularly engage with. Ambassadors can influence their audiences and bring attention to your company, changing how people view your brand.
Even if ambassadors are just reaching family and friends, you’re jump-starting a word-of-mouth campaign and hopefully building a community of enthusiasts.
“The results won’t happen overnight, but if you have a well-thought-out long-term strategy and a vision to implement the strategy, there aren’t any reasons why you shouldn’t see results in a matter of a month or two,” Schmidt said.
Brand ambassadors with devoted followings can instantly bring trust and credibility to your brand.
“A well-structured brand ambassador program can increase brand awareness and build brand trust and credibility, especially for young or emerging brands,” said Lia van Eyk, vice president of marketing at Steadily. “Ambassadors can quickly raise brand awareness among their qualified audience and consistently lend their voice and authority to the brand.”
Since brand ambassadors don’t usually get paid monetarily, their thoughts on your products or services are already more credible with potential customers because they have no financial motivation to say positive things.
Utilizing brand ambassadors can be a cost-effective effort that stretches your marketing budget.
“A brand ambassador program is a great way to reach a wider audience without having to spend a ton of money on marketing,” said Brian Donovan, CEO of Timeshatter. “Brand ambassadors already use your products and love them, and will also usually work for free products, which will ultimately save you money on marketing.”
Ask a frequent buyer what their favorite product is, and offer to send them one for free to get the brand ambassador talks going.
Using a brand ambassador can be a powerful marketing tool that acts as a shortcut to your target audience – with the ambassador serving as a credible and reliable spokesperson.
“You not only have direct access to more customers when you advertise through brand ambassador programs, but you also get to connect with the correct consumers,” said David Skates, founder of Skates.co.uk. “Because brand ambassadors are enthusiastic about your brand, it’s very probable that their acquaintances will be as well.”
While people may use the terms interchangeably, brand ambassadors and influencers aren’t really the same things. There are a few main differences.
Here are some ways to find excellent brand ambassadors:
An easy way to find good brand ambassadors is to examine your company’s social media following and find active followers enthusiastic about your business. Reach out to them and let them know you’re interested in working with them as a brand ambassador.
It’s essential to find people who will represent your company how you’d like it to be represented. Take care to look at potential ambassadors’ audiences and social media content to decide if they’re a good fit.
Good brand ambassador qualities include being outgoing and personable, creative, trustworthy and genuine. Find individuals who really like your business and would be excited to work with you. Working with someone unfamiliar with your organization or uninterested in your product won’t come off well and would be akin to a typical paid advertisement. Their audience will easily be able to sense disingenuity.
When recruiting brand ambassadors, it’s crucial to set well-defined agreements beforehand that outline how they present your brand. Otherwise, you risk being represented improperly and unprofessionally. You don’t want your company to be part of inappropriate social media postings that hurt – rather than help – your cause.
Another excellent brand ambassador source is your staff. Employees can be great brand ambassadors; they can share the most accurate information about your company and have better insight into what kinds of messages will benefit the brand.
“There is much research to support the fact that employees are highly trusted when it comes to sharing information about the companies they work for and the products/services those companies create and sell,” said communication strategist Linda Pophal. “I would say the greatest potential downfall for companies is that, in order for employees to be willing to serve as brand ambassadors and to share positive messages, they have to be loyal, committed, and engaged with the organization.”
As part of a local marketing strategy, finding local individuals to act as brand ambassadors can be a great asset to your business – even if they don’t know about you yet.
“These local individuals should have consistent, engaging activity on their social media platforms,” said Mario Cacciottolo, PR and brand manager at SBO.net. “Even with just 1,000-plus followers, a brand ambassador can be quite impactful if the ambassador is from the town where your brick-and-mortar [store] is located. A strong candidate will have a clear aura or style on social media, so find one who has a personality that will mesh with your brand.”
Jennifer Post contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.