Brand advocates and word-of-mouth: the power of the regular Joe

eMarketer.com released a report, looking at brand advocates, word-of-mouth and how to scale it using these advocates. Advocacy obviously is not new. It builds further on the model of reach, acquisition, conversion, retention and loyalty Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler described in their paper “E-Metrics, Business Metrics For The New Economy”, published in 2000.

In that paper, the authors described a ‘company advocate’ as “a very happy customer who helps to recruit new ones. That step beyond retention but most of all the ‘happy customer’ must remains key in Jim’s views as I could witness earlier this month at a SAS event where he said ‘the purpose of a business is not profit but happy customers’. Obviously, profit, cost reductions and satisfied customers are the end goals, as Jim always says. However, we need to focus – more than ever – on sustainable business rather than (only) the short-term and quick wins.

Customer Life Cycle Value” (CLV), Jim added, “is the best metric“.

Word-of-mouth is not new either. It’s as old as people trade, and it still has an important offline dimension. However, things change fast. With social media, brand advocacy, has become a holy grail for many marketers, not in the least because of the mere scale of the social web.

Focusing too much on that scale as such and on massive viral gains leads many marketers to target the so-called experts and “big-time social media influencers” as eMarketer calls them. It’s often a mistake, also because the ways we measure and perceive influence are far from perfect. Fact is many businesses do it wrong.

Be good. Be relevant. In fact, be remarkable.

eMarketer’s Kimberly Maul says “, the regular Joe is the most powerful type of advocate out there and can have the greatest effect on his friends and family.” She is right and continues “by leveraging connections with these everyday influencers, brands can amplify word-of-mouth online and increase engagement.”

The best way to get your customers to talk about your brand or products is making their experiences with these products and across all touchpoints valuable and relevant. To quote Jim Sterne again: make them (very) happy. In fact, as Bryan Eisenberg wrote a while back, be more than relevant, be remarkable to generate word-of-mouth.

A report by Zuberance, mentioned in the article announcing the eMarketer report, shows exactly that: the primary reason US Internet users recommend a brand, product or service is all about good experiences (more reasons in the chart below). Note this is without so-called influencers that get paid.

Understand who your brand or company advocates are and make sure you also know what they want. Engage and value them. Make sure you put your customers, in the broader sense, in the centre of what you do and optimize experiences across all touchpoints. That’s how you get brand advocates (provided your products don’t suck of course).

Focusing on the “big-time social media influencers” is silly if you cannot do what I just described to begin with.

Brand advocates – eConsultancy
Brand advocates – eConsultancy

More about eMarketer’s report, “Brand Advocates: Scaling Social Media Word-of-Mouth” here.

It promises you to help you understand:

  • The characteristics of consumers who actively make recommendations on social media.
  • How and why these consumers use social media to talk about brands.
  • How you can leverage and hold on to these advocates.