In the last four years, interest in influencer marketing has only been eclipsed by one other marketing strategy: brand ambassadors.
Top social brands are enlisting the help of influencer, customer and employee brand ambassadors to speak about the brand in the voice of the consumer and strengthen relationships with them and their followers. Through personal experiences with the brand, ambassadors lend their credibility and unique perspective to influence brand perceptions and purchase intent over time. In return, brands are able to build a community of advocates on social media and in real life.
There are many key benefits of running a brand ambassador program. Here are the top takeaways that we’ve found most beneficial when running these types of collaborations:
- Long-term Influencer Relationships: Ambassador programs focus on building relationships, which allows you to streamline the sourcing and review process involved in all campaigns due to already having a group of trusted content creators to work with on an ongoing basis. These long-term relationships allow you to reactivate top performers that create high-quality content on a consistent basis, while driving authentic brand awareness and engagement.
- Brand Affinity and Community Growth: Due to the nature of a brand ambassador program, consumers will be repeatedly exposed to positive branded messaging over a long period of time by brand advocates who have ‘online’ credibility. Content creators have passionate, loyal and engaged communities and the repeated exposure from a brand ambassador program has the ability to positively impact business sales among your target audience. You can trust their work, they trust you, and their friends/followers trust them and your brand in return – it’s a win-win situation.
- Influencer & Consumer Research: Outside of content creation, ambassador programs can be used to generate influencer and consumer research. Collaborating with content creators for a campaign brief, a new product launch, or a marketing initiative concept can add an invaluable perspective to any project. This also increases the commitment the content creator has to the project and overall brand.
Transitioning from short-term influencer campaigns and collaborations to a longer-term, established brand ambassador program can seem daunting at first. Below, here are seven steps to get you started.
7 Steps for Building a Brand Ambassador Program:
Step 1: Set Brand Ambassador Program Goals and KPIs
The first step in running a successful brand ambassador program is to determine the goals and KPIs of the program. A few common goals and KPIs to start include:
- Number of Ambassadors in the Program
- KPI: Number of members recruited into the program
- KPI: Ambassador program growth over time
- Ambassador Engagement
- KPI: number of brand-to-ambassador interactions or quality of interactions from the brand to ambassadors
- KPI: campaign completion rate, number of ambassadors that completed the given post requirements in any given campaign brief
- Brand Awareness
- KPI: volume of social media posts mentioning your brand
- KPI: brand awareness lift among ambassadors’ followers pre- and post-campaign
- Volume and Quality of Ambassador Content
- KPI: number of repurposable pieces of content
- Purchase Intent
- KPI: increase in purchase consideration among ambassadors’ followers pre- and post-campaign
Step 2: Determine Incentive Strategy
Once you have decided on your main goals and KPIs for your brand ambassador program, you should consider your incentive budget and logistics. The most common types of incentives include points toward store purchases, gift cards, promo codes (cash value).
When considering how to deliver incentives to ambassadors, there are three different strategies:
- Payment UpFront: Offer brand ambassadors payment upfront, either product from the brand, gift cards to purchase products from the brand, or cash payment. Incentivizing ambassadors upfront is best used when activating ambassadors to produce original content and/or managing a brand ambassador program at a smaller scale, recommended for collaborating with five-to-fifteen influencers total.
- Payment After Post: Give ambassadors a creative or content prompt at the beginning of each month, paying them on a per-post basis after the content is published. Incentivizing ambassadors in this way is best used when running a brand ambassador program at a larger scale, long-term activation, recommended for collaborating with approximately 50+influencers throughout the entire collaboration.
- Payment After Post + Bonus: Give ambassadors a campaign theme at the start of each month revolving around critical shopping periods (i.e., holiday/event) to create content to be repurposed on the brand’s website and social media accounts. Ask influencers to submit content for the brand to review a few weeks before they publish on their social media accounts. Incentivizing influencers in this way is best for incorporating a number of campaigns throughout the year, activating influencers at a smaller scale, with approximately five to ten influencers total. After each campaign, the brand and influencer will decide if the partnership is a good fit, before proceeding to the next campaign.
Step 3: Identify Your Ambassador Personas
When it comes to recruiting ambassadors to join your brand ambassador program, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Recruitment will depend on the brand’s unique goals and objectives of the program. We advise brands to recruit ambassadors in one of three ways:
- Top-Performing Influencers from Previous Campaigns: Run at least five campaigns to evaluate the top performers across each of the brand-specific campaigns to determine the first group to invite into your brand ambassador program. Do an in-depth analysis of the initial activation to determine who from this group you would like to continue partnering with based on their performance.
- Customer Base: For brands who already have large and active audiences online, recruiting ambassadors from brand-owned touchpoints allows brands to amplify their loyal customers’ (and potential customers’) organic and authentic brand passion. Brands can engage influencers and consumer advocates from an existing email subscriber base, brand.com and/or owned social channels.
- Brand Employees/Associates: A brand ambassador program can be created for employees to take part in as well. Brands can spread the word to employees by sending invitations via email and should make sure that the program is also on the brand’s internal website.
Step 4: Invite Influencers, Customers, and Employees to Apply
Invite and vet potential ambassadors based on your criteria. Identify what each ambassador would bring to the table. The ambassador pool should be diverse. Once ambassadors have been selected, on-board them to your brand: share brand and style guidelines, consumer research & insights, and marketing campaign calendars. This can be done with a kick-off meeting in person or virtually, but the efforts to immerse them in your brand drives buy-in and creative alignment before any campaign launches.
To invite top-performing influencers to apply, brands can install an always-on application on its website to point top-performing influencers to a dedicated landing page with the program details.
To invite your customer base to apply, best practices include emailing your CRM, recruiting on brand-owned social channels (i.e., application link in IG bio), running paid advertisements within the application link on social channels, and/or running a referral program from current customers enrolled in the program.
To invite employees/associates to apply, best practices include sending a company-wide email, posting on company-facing channels such as messaging systems, and/or running a referral program for current employees enrolled in the program.
Step 5: Launch Brand Ambassador Program
After deciding on your method in which you will be incentivizing ambassadors, the next steps will be strategizing on your program activation. Our best practices for setting up your brand ambassador program is as follows:
- Brief the ambassadors monthly (or on a different cadence of your preference).
- Provide ambassadors with a choice to create content for that brief.
- If the ambassadors create content by the deadline, they are rewarded with the chosen incentive.
- If an ambassador does not choose to post, they will not be taken out of the program and will have an opportunity to participate in the following brief.
- If needed, you do have the ability to remove an ambassador from the program.
We recommend using the Mavrck Influencer Property feature to keep track of which ambassadors are influencers, employees or customers to send proper communications to each group, and make reporting easier.
Step 6: Communication with Ambassadors
Because some of your ambassadors may not be traditional influencers, we find that the more communication, the better. We recommend setting up the below cadence for new members in the program:
- Welcome email with high level expectations and first deadline
- Creative Brief email (this should be very detailed including examples of the types of content you are expecting on what social media platforms)
- Any photography/posting tips you can include are very useful for newer content creators
- Reminder Email 1 including the brief for convenience
- For a monthly cadence, we recommend sending this mid-month to leave plenty of time for questions
- Reminder Email 2 including the brief for convenience
- For a monthly cadence, we recommend sending this 1 week before the post due date
- Reminder Email 3 including the brief for convenience
- For a monthly cadence, we recommend sending this 2 days before the post due date
- “Thank you for posting” email including a link to a survey to give feedback on the program
Step 7: Measure Success
Now that you have activated your group of ambassadors, it’s time to revisit your goals and KPIs to measure success.
- Evaluate KPIs: What KPIs are you currently measuring your brand ambassador program against (number of ambassadors, number of repurposable assets that your brand can share, etc.)? How is your ambassador program performing relative to other social initiatives?
- Expand Performance Analysis: We recommend using any current tools your brand has in place to expand your analysis of ambassadors’ performance and value generated (e.g. if you have access to Crimson Hexagon, are you also measuring overall sentiment of ambassadors’ posts and resulting comments?)
- Post-Campaign Survey: Following the conclusion of each campaign, you should send a survey to gain feedback from all ambassadors (completed or incomplete): how the program is being run, communication, incentives, open field for additional feedback in order to optimize your strategy for future campaigns.
Other Suggested Quick Wins:
When starting an ambassador program, it’s crucial to make people feel like they are part of a community. Below are two examples of quick wins to create a feeling of community for ambassadors.
- Create an Ambassador-Only Facebook Group: Groups on social media (i.e., Facebook Groups) can aid in both crowdsourcing and community building. Brands can post weekly group prompts that fall in line with either lever (Ex: Crowdsourcing: Sending a preferred color poll out to all ambassadors. Community Building: Asking influencers to comment which city they are located in + help make connections with influencers in similar areas to shoot their monthly content together.
- Host Quarterly Webinars: Quarterly webinars can aid in community building as well as help ambassadors truly understand a brand’s product or service. Webinars can cover details about the brand, its ambassador program, content creation tips & tricks, best practices and things to avoid.
For more tips, tricks and best practices for creating a brand ambassador program and strategy, book a demo or consultation with our team of expert influencer marketing strategists.