Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of presenting at CMX Summit 2020, where I explored the convergence of community and customer advocacy. Our 2020 State of Customer Marketing Report revealed that 44% of online community and advocacy programs are managed together and nearly one-third of respondents said they are considering merging or already in the process of merging these programs.
Customer advocacy programs can cultivate a community, but not all communities have advocates or are simply not leveraging them enough. Through the lens of our customers, here’s how advocates can supercharge brand communities.
Create Prestige Using Badges and Levels
On the NPS scale, customer advocates are your 9s and 10s. If you already have advocates in your community, make sure they can receive badges for their contributions, as this allows them to stand out in your community and look and feel special.
Make it clear that their participation in your community can lead to higher levels of stature, with corresponding recognition and rewards. This doesn’t always mean just offering swag items or gifts. According to Forrester, there are four different advocate personalities: Educators, Validators, Status Seekers, and Collaborators. They all can have an impactful role in your community if they are incentivized based on their preferences.
Reward Advocates for Recruiting New Customers
Marketers are accustomed to metrics such as Customer Acquisition Cost and Cost Per Lead and Customer Lifetime Value. As a community manager, what’s the value of having an engaged customer in your community, immersed in your brand and content?
Once you know that value, turn to your advocates and create a member-driven competition with a leaderboard for them to see who’s winning and moving up the ranks.
One way to create competition is to incentivize recruitment. Advocates are persuasive because they are passionate and genuine and their messages aren’t scripted. They are your best marketing and salespeople, so encourage them to authentically recruit and reward them accordingly.
Create Mentorship Opportunities
Networking and professional development are key benefits of a community, and one great example of this is Ceridian’s customer community, XOXO. Ceridian helps customers navigate the community and facilitates networking between themselves by offering proactive coaching and timely assistance. Their match program combines peer-based support and professional networking into a single gamified forum.
Advocates who are Educators and Collaborators love giving back to their community by helping others through a mentorship program.
Spark Product Innovation
There’s a good chance you’re already using your community to gather product feedback. Advocates take it one step further by helping community members brainstorm more efficient ways to use your products and services. Their role as an authority figure in your community and passion for your product or service will spark discussions around new use cases, edge cases and unchartered roadmaps.
Influitive has a Product Ideas discussion forum open to all customers where they can share feature ideas and have them upvoted by the community. It is our most engaged category and 75% of all product roadmap ideas stem from this discussion area.
Consider gamifying this experience so that advocates earn points for submitting a product idea and earn more recognition in the form of badges and points for when an idea is productized and made available to all customers. That will appeal most to your Status Seeker Advocates.
Award Bounties for Best Answers
It’s great to have advocates help inspire new ideas, but they can also help you solve common support questions. Influitive works with IBM’s security division to power their advocate community. This team was tasked with increasing engagement in their Salesforce community, driving more users into their advocate community hub, and finding a way to incentivize users to participate in external communities.
Using Influitive’s API, they were able to integrate their public forums with their customer advocacy program. That way, members will automatically earn points that can be used towards rewards and these activities are logged within reporting. Non-members of the Influitive hub would also receive points and have these activities logged, and upon joining have these key moments retroactively recorded. This is a great way to track core activities and incentivize both members and non-members within an external community. You can learn more about this integration in IBM’s Influitive Live presentation.
Have Subject Matter Experts Host AMA Sessions
Consider taking your Q&A to the next level by hosting Ask-Me-Anything sessions within your community’s discussion forum. When done well, AMA sessions can boost engagement and promote transparency with your audience, allowing them to get to know your brand on a more personal level.
Our customer Viewpoint has seen a lot of success in hosting live AMA sessions with different subject matter experts from across their organization, garnering views and engagement long after the session ends.
Find the Advocates within your customer base who like to play the role of Educator and have them lead AMA sessions, or be paired up with members of your Product team. They will be a natural draw to other customers based on their real-world product experience.
Share Product Tips and Successes
Customer success teams are tasked with increasing product and feature adoption and helping customers maximize their product knowledge and investment. Customers are more attentive to what their peers have to say versus what your company publishes. Package your product information in a format that will resonate with your customers: customer-generated stories.
HPE’s Jennifer Susinski has seen a lot of success with customer stories that come from well-oiled relationships. “When you read one of our customer stories, it involves HPE, but you don’t feel like ‘Oh God, it’s another HPE story,’ because it’s not about our company. It’s about the customer, their challenges and triumphs, which makes it that much more special,” she shared.
Your advocates are willing to write blog articles, create how-to videos, and share their successes; all of which your customers will happily enjoy consuming. Consider featuring customers weekly or monthly in your community, incorporate open-ended questions or polls about the advice shared by advocates to spark further engagement. You can even tie it into networking or mentorship opportunities to connect community members.
Show Care and Passion
True advocates will always show care and passion not only for your company but their fellow community members. This is a mantra best demonstrated by two of Influitive’s most passionate customers: Jamf and UserTesting.
Jeni Asaba runs Jamf’s customer advocacy program, Jamf Heroes. To celebrate the community’s 2nd birthday, Jeni filmed a video thanking everyone for their shared success and how appreciative Jamf was for their advocacy and contributions. She asked community members to give kudos to a fellow member and in a follow-up activity, shared all responses and publicly recognized each submission and provided points to those highlighted.
Lauren Turner manages UserTesting’s CommUnity and dedicates 10-15% of community content creation to fun and interactive activities. By asking about birthdays, pets, pop culture preferences, holiday plans and providing fun trivia quizzes, she builds meaningful connections with both the company and amongst community members. At the end of each month, Lauren determines who has “levelled up” in the community, achieved certain point milestones, or shared a personal/professional milestone and compiles that into a kudos announcement.
We were lucky to have both Jeni and Lauren speak at Influitive Live on this exact topic, and I strongly encourage you to check it out if you’d like to learn more.
No matter the kind of brand community you run or the goals you’re striving to achieve, advocates can play a vital role in creating both long-term and sustainable engagement all while nurturing other customers into future advocates.