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What Does A Real Brand Advocate Look Like?

Bragging about your followers, likes or retweets is beyond basic. And it’s also pretty meaningless, if a new study by SurveyMonkey is to be believed. “Social media addicts may look like your most engaged consumers, but marketers need to stop looking at their data in silos to find their true advocates,”says Bennett Porter, Vice President of Marketing Communications at SurveyMonkey.

A great many brands have fallen into the habit of collecting likes and fostering engagement by any means necessary, leading to a plethora of online posts which are increasingly tangential to their actual message, when the real value lies elsewhere. “Companies need to move beyond collecting likes and retweets with meaningless content,” says Thomas Crampton, Social@Ogilvy’s Global Managing Director.

Vital statistics

With over 5,000 respondents from 11 countries, the survey suggests that while people may be talking about your brand online, it doesn’t necessarily make them brand advocates. Some key takeaways:

  • 84% of respondents say they follow a brand, product or service on social media.
  • 58% of these people have interacted directly with a brand, with 79% receiving a response back.
  • 58% of respondents have shared their negative and positive opinions of brands with others online.
  • However, only 19% of respondents could be described as true brand promoters.

What makes a promoter?


Porter states that the study has helped SurveyMonkey to “better understand the profile of brand promoters; those who are extremely likely to recommend brands to friends and colleagues.”

Promoters are intrinsically more active followers; 66% follow brands on a regular basis, and 42% do this in order to interact directly with them. Promoters share qualities regardless of location; they’re interested in hearing about new products and offers, they like to give direct feedback, and they are keen to have direct interaction with a company. And quality is paramount, with 91% saying this is their main reason for recommending specific brands or products to their friends.

One especially interesting tidbit which arose from the study was the revelation that truly passionate promoters tend to hail from emerging economies like Brazil and India, where 42% and 33% respectively fall into this category. Compare that with Japan, where only 1% of promoters live. However, this disparity may well be due to culturally specific forms of advocacy; for instance, 43% of Japanese consumers trust in-person recommendations the most.

Cultivating advocacy

The research confirms what we’ve already known for some time; while we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the platforms we use to communicate, consumers value depth of connection over breadth. As such, relevance and trust are key in finding and nurturing these connections.

“To appeal to promoters, brands need to not only focus on quality but also reputation among friends or colleagues and that sense of worth that comes from being associated with a brand,” says Porter. It’s all about connecting naturally with the right audience, in the right place, at the right time. Which might sound like a tall order, but it can be achieved in a number of ways. For example; real time, culturally relevant storytelling can transcend platforms and markets. At the same time, moving beyond broad demographics to build conversations around specific interests and friendships will deepen an advocate’s connection to your brand.

Says Crampton: “Through genuine interaction and content designed to connect with true advocates, companies can drive forward their brand, business and reputation in ways not possible before this era of social media.”

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