20140117-DSC02860-X2When one thinks about computer networking, they often don’t think about thrilling content.

However, the Cisco Champions Program, our 2013 Best Advocate Marketing Awards winner for Best Content/Engagement, proved that IT pros could generate plenty of interesting stories.

By harnessing the power of their program members, Cisco significantly increased the reach of their social media and content marketing campaigns. They gave Cisco Champions the tools to share their knowledge with the Cisco community and celebrated those contributions through blogging and social media (using the hashtag #CiscoChampion).

In 3 months, Cisco Champions had posted 90,000 times, created 25 blogs supporting key initiatives (which received 5,000 views), and started a new in-depth article series based on advocate questions (which received 26,000 views).

We caught up with Rachel Bakker, Social Media Marketing Manager, Advocacy at Cisco Systems, and Nestor Portillo, Head of Social Communities & Advocacy programs, Digital Marketing at Cisco Systems, to see what the reigning champs are cooking up this year.

Post-win program progress

Cisco focused on connecting with their Cisco Champions at their biggest event of the year, Cisco Live. “We had about 35 Cisco Champions there and had a lot of virtual online and social media engagement,” says Rachel. “We all valued the in-person connections. It was a great experience for everyone, and the social conversation was phenomenal. We had a reach of 30 million before, during and after the event.”

This year, Rachel says Cisco’s most effective initiatives included in-person events, their blogging program and podcasts. “Cisco Champions value the program because it helps them professionally and provides them opportunities to give back to their peers in the IT community.”

Lessons learned: Human connections count most

“We learned that content is king but connections are more important. You can have strong content, but the Cisco Champions also value the connections you can drive for them inside the company,” says Nestor. Making employees available through their program has been vital to its continued success. “They like to connect with Cisco human to human. We focus on giving people access to those employees who are living, breathing and using Cisco products everyday, rather than those who are at a higher level in the company.”

Nestor says Cisco wants to expand the program to new platforms and countries so they can be everywhere their enthusiastic customers are. “We want to become a comprehensive global community recognition program.”

Best practices for building engaging content

Creating opportunities and experiences members value is the key to a successful program, meaning you need to know your members quite well. “You really need to focus on what interests them, rather than starting with your company message,” says Rachel. “Your members are the stars of your program.”

Rachel also suggests making specific people at your company the face of your program to humanize your brand and engage members.

Think you’ve got a killer connection with your customers? Here’s why you should enter to win a Best Advocate Marketing Award:

“I think one of the benefits of winning a BAMMIE is the recognition not only for Cisco, but also for our participants,” says Nestor. “It’s good for them to see the program they belong to is also recognized by the industry.”

10 Award-Winning Advocate Marketing Success Stories
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