There’s a opportunity for you to have one of your customers, a loyal user, jump in and speak kindly of you. Who do you turn to? Who do you ask? How do you ask them for their support?
 
If you take too long to answer these questions, the opportunity will be missed. 
 
Missing the opportunity could mean less traffic, lost sales, and a missed opportunity to build your relationship with a current customer or user. You can’t let that happen. While it’s common to believe that such testimonials really help drive revenue growth, they can also increase brand awareness and improve ROI.
 

The Need For Advocates

 
A study published by the MIT Sloan Management Review showed that having brand ambassadors advocate on your behalf – instead of having your staff or your company’s account – dramatically increases the ROI of your social media campaign. 
 
The study found that effectively engaging advocates increased:
 
  • Brand awareness by 49 percent
  • Sales revenue growth by 40 percent
  • ROI by 83 percent
With results like this, every company needs advocates.
 
We at Evergage certainly love our brand advocates. They share great feedback with us and spread the word about their positive experiences with our product.
 
The benefits of having vocal brand advocates is obvious. 
 
What hasn’t been obvious for many companies is the best way to create brand advocates, as well as leverage their willingness to help your company grow.
 
Before we break down how we are engaging our brand advocates, let’s look at a few ways most companies are trying to accomplish this feat. 
 

The Traditional Approach

 
One of the “go to” approaches for identifying and leveraging brand ambassadors revolves around social listening:
 
  • Monitor social conversations with a platform, like Hootsuite, and identify the most influential people taking part in the conversation
  • Identify the factors that are likely to make for an engaged and involved influencer
  • Start recruiting those influencers by reaching out through social channels and building relationships
  • Offer incentives for those people to advocate on your behalf
This is the traditional approach and one that can work well, but, as I see it, there are definitely downfalls to this approach.
 
1. All Of This Communication is Out Of Context
 
The odds are that when you ask someone to act as a brand ambassador, they likely aren’t using your product. If they aren’t in the experience of your app or on your site, all of your communication about your app or site is out of context.
 
If someone isn’t involved or active on your site or in your app when you ask them to discuss it and vouch for it, it’s going to be harder to get them to do so.
 
A customer may have had a great experience with your product recently, but enough time has past for it to become hard to remember and details might be fuzzy.
 
2. It’s Very Time Consuming
 
Building relationships takes time – a lot of it. You need to identify potential advocates, track their behavior, see what they like and what they discuss, build rapport, and reach out. It’s a process you need to undergo with each individual because it helps you understand that person – what they like and why they act. 
 
Now imagine having to do that while you try and narrow down a large list of potential advocates – it could easily consume hours upon hours of your time without ever producing a single effective advocate. 
 
3. The Ambassador Might Not Even Be A User
 
If you need someone to review your product and talk about how great it is, it makes more sense to make sure they are actually a user of yours.
 
I think a review or comment will be more powerful coming from a customer than someone who simply loves your brand, but who has never used your product or service.
 
I have certainly been through this process myself in the past. However, we at Evergage enjoy a different strategy.
 

In-Context Ambassador Recruitment And Engagement

 
In-context messaging is when you communicate with your users or readers while they are on your site or in your app. 
 
Because they aren’t being interrupted or distracted from a completely unrelated task to read about you, users are more likely to be responsive to your engagement. It is relevant to the current experience they are in in real-time.
 
It’s effectiveness comes from its contextuality – if someone is skimming their inbox and they receive an email from you, they are not currently thinking about or using your product. It’s going to take a bit more effort to pull them away from what they are doing and back to you.
 
The second reason in-context messages are so impactful is that they can be personalized and completely dynamic – meaning the message displayed varies from user-to-user and depends on their behavior and history, both on site and in-app. 
 
In addition to tracking someone’s behavior in app or on site, we are also able to figure out how people came to your site, know what browser and platform someone is using, know their geographical location, and know what they have done with your business in the past. 
 
The Evergage team thought that using this kind of data to create personalized messages would be ideal to help recruit advocates because you wouldn’t have to wade through social channels to find people.
 
Instead, you would just have to engage with people who were already in our application. 
 
Here’s what we did.
 
Monitored User Behavior and Engagement Levels
 
The first thing you need to do is start monitoring the behavior of your users with your product. 
Discover what actions they take most, what features they do and do not use, how often they log in, and for how long.
 
Naturally, we use our own platform to do this. While we have plenty of engineers on staff, we didn’t have to dedicate any of those resources to setting anything up, as behavior analytics setup is point-and-click using the Evergage Visual Editior. 
 
Over time, Evergage accumulates user engagement data on every customer. Then, we segment our customer base to better understand every user’s engagement levels. 
 
For a clear look into a specific customer’s level of engagement, Evergage let’s us go one step further. Every interaction the user has with our business gets computed into a customer engagement score.
 
Our sales team loves seeing a customer engagement score within SalesForce, but the main benefit is getting a clear picture into what customers we should proactively engage, and how.
 
With a clear insight into who our customers are their level of engagement with us, we have been able to leverage this information to mobilize our top users.
 
An example of this is shown within a recent LinkedIn discussion about customer success management products. Someone was asking which products out of a list (our competitors and us) would people recommend and what their experiences were with each company.
 
The first intuition is to follow the traditional approach: either respond to this discussion ourselves, ask our vast Twitter following to jump into the conversation, or both.
 
Instead, we decided that we should focus on recruiting help from our most engaged customers. We know they love our platform, and wouldn’t mind sharing some kind words in the discussion – and it would be much more genuine than if we had responded in the discussion ourselves. 
 
We also stuck to our beliefs, and decided to engage these users while they were within the Evergage product experience. 
 
 
So, we drafted a dynamic message in Evergage, set our targeting for the message to only show to highly engaged logged-in users, and hit go. The result? 
 
Believe It Or Not, It Definitely Worked!
 
 
Within one hour six users fit our engagement filter, we showed 10 impressions of the call-to-action, and three people clicked through.
 
One of those people who clicked through left a response that we were very happy with.
 
 
Power Down
 
 
Once we had achieved our goal – the glowing review – we deactivated the message because we didn’t want to flood the LinkedIn discussion and look spammy. 
 
To make sure we weren’t annoying our customers, we would only show the dynamic message one time to each user, and never again thereafter. After all, we’ll likely need their help again in the future. 
 
Have you experienced in-context engagement yourself? What are some of the best practices in creating and leveraging brand advocates that have worked for you? 
 
If so, I’d love to read your experiences in the comments below. Maybe we can put an idea of yours to the test.