Something To Talk About: How To Reach Brand Advocates

Opinions Wanted Word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the most effective tools a marketer can wield — consumers trust other consumers’ opinions when it comes to choosing products. For Internet marketers, the online equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising is social media and brand advocacy. Seventy-six percent of online shoppers rely on feedback from other buyers when making product purchases. For products across the spectrum — from laundry detergents to breakfast cereals — Internet users are leveraging social media to connect with other users, who ultimately affect their buying decisions. Who Brand Advocates Are and Why They Matter A recent study by Yahoo revealed that of these shoppers, a certain set — sometimes labeled “brand advocates” — tends to be very influential in shaping social trends and buying habits. “Brand advocates are a group that has always existed,” explains Edwin Wong, senior manager of market research for “But web 2.0 tools are giving them more of a voice and extending their circles of influence.” This small segment of the population feels that good brands are worth talking about, and goes out of their way to recommend them. Even though these brand advocates comprise a small portion of your buyers, they’re an important portion because they carry a disproportionate influence among other consumers, and have an impact on your overall brand. This kind of virtual word-of-mouth advocacy is extremely effective, with brand advocates showing a two-to-one conversion rate. Once this group is convinced of your product’s worth, they have the passion and personality to make them your most effective sales force. Connecting Point: Hot Topics To connect with your niche market’s most vocal and influential buyers, you need to find out what their flash points are, and positioning your brand accordingly. Your goal is to take your traditional product, and make it about something that means more. For instance, if you vend nutrition bars, you might market them around ideals like lifestyle, health, and weight loss, which mean a great deal more to end users than just another snack. By connecting with online groups that focus on health and dieting, you’re reaching out to your target audience. Look at your niche market’s hot topics, and adjust your marketing message to speak to those issues. Connecting Point: Portal Sites Of all Internet shoppers, brand advocates tend to do the most online research and examine the widest range of options before choosing a product or brand. During this research process, you have an excellent opportunity to engage them, by providing the most in-depth, persuasive and illustrative information possible and putting it out on as many portals as possible. Portal sites provide social media outlets for users to share their opinions and passions; they also provide marketers a very neutral ground to tell consumers why their products are superior: • There are tens of thousands of enthusiast groups looking for like-minded people who love their brands, and tens of thousands of reviews available on nearly any product. • Blogs, online groups, product review sites and forums allow advocates to find brands and products they feel passionate about. Advises Wong, “These are very knowledgeable consumers, and you really want to engage them while they’re in their research process. You need to use every available means to connect with them, because these are the people that can move product for you and move the bottom line for your brand.”