Building Brand Advocates: How to Create and Manage an Influencer Ambassador Program

Relationships between social media influencers and brands can feel overwhelming. They require the investment of time and money and change continuously with fluctuating industry standards.

One point is clear, though: consumers seek expert content on social media. According to a recent study (Healio, 2020), up to 75% of parents seek advice on social media. So, though it may feel tricky, influencers representing your brand on social media bring your message directly to your audience.

When a brand decides to work with social media influencers, they should consider working with them in a few different ways. Making influencer partnerships even more overwhelming, there are multiples ways brands engage with influencers. Some influencers can do one-off product reviews and can often be compensated with products. These are quick, transactional exchanges that can help brands generate content quickly. Another option is collaborating with influencers as brand ambassadors, which allows for mutual investment in a longer-term engagement. The ambassadors learn much more about your brand as they create and share content across weeks or months. Ambassadors can offer brands excellent ROI – by creating deeper partnerships, ambassadors can often become brand advocates, which lasts far beyond the terms of their contracts.

This model can work for any size and type of consumer product brand, as long as they can devote proper time and budget to the effort. Here’s how to navigate an ambassador program without feeling overwhelmed.

Create the Program

Before you contact any influencers, step back and determine the goals of your ambassador program. Do you want to increase awareness about your products? Are you seeking a certain number of placements? Do you desire more branded content to increase awareness and boost your search rankings? Is it important to gain feedback from influencers about a new product? How long does the campaign need to last – should influencers deliver content across a few weeks, a month or even a year? What other objectives will you set to decide if an ambassador program is a success?

Identify candidates

With your goals in mind, begin identifying ambassador candidates. Start by determining what channels you’re interested. Perhaps it’s TikTok, Instagram, YouTube or a mix. You can find candidates by researching relevant hashtags on the social platforms you are targeting. If you’re seeking a large ambassador program, it may make sense to explore a social influencer management platform, though the cost of those tools can run several thousand dollars per month.

Vet influencers

After identifying influencers, it’s time to vet them to ensure they’ll support your goals and properly represent your brand. When reviewing a candidate, first look at their profile as a whole. Is their aesthetic and content in line with your standards? Are their photos and videos high-quality and are their captions thoughtful and well-written? Consider the details: do they represent the diversity of your consumers – a mix of different genders, races, family structures, locations? While it’s enticing to veer toward influencers with large numbers of followers or subscribers, pay more attention to their engagement rates. If they have a high number of followers, but little engagement, you’ll end up paying for more follower awareness than you’re actually getting.

Formalize relationship

Once you’ve settled on a mix of influencers for the campaign, it’s time to reach out to each candidate. If they’re aligned with your goals and fit your desired profile, move to formalize the relationship. Set up a contract that determines the exact content you want the influencer to create and share, as well as corresponding fees and timing. Category exclusivity can set up a more authentic engagement, since the influencer won’t be posting about your products one day and your competitor’s the next – but be prepared that this exclusivity will come at a price. Usage rights are another cost beyond the content creation that will allow your brand to use the influencer’s content for marketing and other brand efforts for a set period of time.

Further, a morality clause builds in the expectation of a certain code of conduct when working on behalf of your brand, such as not purchasing followers or engaging in online bullying. If the influencer violates this clause, your brand has grounds to terminate the relationship while minimizing the brand’s reputational damage. Setting up a formal contract, reviewed by lawyers if possible, ensures that both parties have these critical discussions before beginning creative work and payment.

Manage the Program

With the right people and the right plans in place, it’s time to unleash your ambassadors. Ambassadors will connect your brand to their communities – but they can extend their reach by building community with each other. Introduce your ambassadors to each other so that they can support one another’s creative ideas and content plans. Plus, they can share each other’s posts with their own audiences, further increasing your brand’s awareness.

At the outset of your program, share a brief with ambassadors that includes your brand/product key messages, safety and usage guidelines, how to tag your brand on various social media platforms and other important information to keep everyone on the same page. Include review expectations – will you review their content before it’s posted? If so, how far in advance do they need to share their content for approval? Make sure this brief is prescriptive enough to preemptively answer ambassador questions and avoid misuse issues but leaves enough room for them to create content that is authentic to their personas.

To manage timing of their deliverables, create an editorial calendar for the ambassadors’ content. Ensure deadlines are reasonable for all, and build in flexibility in case something – like a delayed product launch or an ambassador’s family illness – changes the timeline.

Finally, regular and responsive communication is key to any relationship, including brand ambassadors. These people are a part of the brand “family” and should be treated as such. Listen to their feedback about your products, and work with them to make changes if possible. Alert them to company news, product launches and promos. Prioritize responding to their questions and concerns, and aim to cultivate relationships that go beyond the transactional content-for-fee.

Create Advocates

Ultimately, your brand will determine your own metrics for success. We’ve managed influencer ambassador programs for the better part of a decade and have seen that these relationships can reap dividends for brands.

Ambassadors who can repeatedly use your products and who are welcomed as a member of the brand family are more likely to truly support and recommend your products. They often create more content than the contract includes and beyond the formal end of the program. With the right people and the right management, influencer ambassadors can become lifelong brand advocates – an asset for any organization.

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