Find A Brand Advocate And Kiss Them

    December 14, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Yahoo! and comScore Networks published a study this week illustrating the power of the so-called “brand advocate,” or for those that don’t speak Corporatese, the people on the Internet that like you and talk about how much they like you on blogs and social networks. They don’t even need a check or a free pair of Nikes.

All they really need is credibility and if enough people give it to them, then they just keep on talking as if anybody really cares. But they do care, because most people aren’t interested in painstaking research, which these brand advocates are always doing, most people just want to know what works and what doesn’t and hope it doesn’t take all day to find out.

Here’s how it works:

1. Webdude researches something so much that he knows everything there is to know about it.

2. If he likes it, he blogs about it, tells other people via IM, email, and friends lists. If he doesn’t, the Yahoo/comScore study says he doesn’t tend to mention it. Worst case scenario, the newly-formed expert hates it so much he puts the effort into spreading news about the lemon via the same channels. If he does, it might be wise to reconsider the product.

3. Webdude continues this behavior (which not only validates his own choices, but gives him a sense of leadership and necessity – i.e., purpose) until his expertise is readily seen in the search results because of the amount of content and the number of links.

4. This builds trust for Webdude among the Notwebdudes. He says buy it, they buy it and all three parties, advocate, consumer, and retailer are very, very happy.

Obviously this analysis is boiled down to simple terms and there is a bit of license taken when applying the study’s findings.

But it sounds about right to me, so let’s move on. Just to be fair, here are the study conductors’ in-their-own-words conclusion:

1. The Internet has significantly impacted how consumers talk about and recommend brands.

2. Word of mouth — a trusted source of information — is amplified online to reach significantly larger audiences.

3. “Brand Advocates” have emerged online as primary influencers, with at least a two to one rate of converting an actual friend or family member to buy the same product or brand.

4. Brand Advocates are incredibly valuable to marketers because they are better connected consumers with a larger sphere of influence.

See, what I said, but harder.

“The art, science and humanity required to create great brands has not changed,” said Anne Frisbie, vice president of category for Yahoo! Search Marketing. “But search and social media are new tools for brand marketers that allow them to target, listen and authentically engage key opinion leaders to create even deeper and more personal brand relationships.”

comScore surveyed nearly 2,300 people to discover the hypothesized Brand Advocates among them. Brand Advocates are younger, “adventurous” (quotes added for the subjectivity of that measure), educated, affluent, and spend more time on the internet than sheep. Er, I meant, “non-advocates.”

Brand Advocates, or non-sheep, make up about 36 percent of the online purchasers, divided up along category lines that include consumer electronics, automobiles, vacations and home mortgages. On average, Brand Advocates conduct 48 searches monthly, compared with 39 average monthly searchers among non-advocates.

Half of Brand Advocates used search engines before a purchase, and only one-third of non-advocates question the advocates authority enough for them to actually search for it themselves. The other two-thirds, perhaps wait for somebody (the news, usually) to tell them what they should buy (my analysis, not theirs).

One thing the ego generally supports: the only thing worse than buyer’s remorse, is admitting you screwed up and it cost you a lot of money in the first place.

Or, as they said it:

“By investing in the research process, Brand Advocates feel more satisfied with their decisions post-purchase, and therefore, are more likely compelled to talk about them.”

About 90 percent of Brand Advocates write something positive about a purchase they’ve made, greatly exceeding negative comments. About 60 percent of them believe that good brands are worth talking about, versus 26 percent of non-advocates, whom we’ve already established as relatively lazy.

So then, the conclusion Yahoo and comScore have presented underscores the importance of social media. Social networks, like in the brick-and-mortar world, require leaders and people to be led. As a result, Brand Advocates, through instant messaging, chat, community, photo sites, and blogging, are able to influence a decently large sphere of contacts.

And influence, like we said last summer, is incredibly important. Brand Advocates are 40 percent more likely to use IM, 119 percent more likely to use podcasts, twice as likely to email someone for an opinion, and twice as likely to ask or post a question online. Non-advocates have other things to do, like surf for porn, perpetuate email chain letters, and watch silly homemade videos on YouTube.

Overall, as the conclusion begins, avid researchers consider more brands and are more open to dialogue with marketers. After they buy, they are more loyal and more likely to recommend purchasing to others. They can’t shut up about it, actually, telling twice as many people about what they bought than non-advocates, and are twice as likely to turn that wind in influence.

So, here we are, 900 words and a full study later, repeating what was said weeks or even months ago (because I’m a windbag advocate for social marketing), encouraging marketers to take advantage of social networks where possible.


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