Member Celebrities Are The New Brand Advocates

Recognizing the key influencers in your community in order to promote brand advocacy and evangelism isn’t a new concept. In fact, many social campaigns start out with similar goals. That said, why is it so hard to create a social campaign that, at its core, inspires members to act as advocates or evangelists?

In order to answer this, it makes sense to take more of a sociological approach and look at the types of people who are engaging with a specific campaign. If the campaign appeals to a group that’s naturally composed of what Malcolm Gladwell would call mavens, then the campaign has a greater chance of becoming viral. If the group is composed of people who may engage but not necessarily share, then viral value is not impacted.

Q: With this in mind, how can we increase viral value regardless of the type of people engaging with the campaign?

A: We do this by creating Member Celebrities.

Where an advocate spreads brand messaging via word-of-mouth and an evangelist converts via word of mouth, a Member Celebrity is featured via a platform provided by the brand. Forms of media created by advocates, evangelists and Member Celebrities are similar in that they include positive ratings, reviews, testimonials, comments, videos etc., however, Member Celebrities are different in that the brand is in direct communication with them and the brand sets expectations when it comes to content creation. The kicker is that the brand will then broadcast this content on domain, the social web and ad banners. Then similar to real celebrities, the brand will provide some form of compensation.

According to a Zuberance study, advocates are worth 5x more than average customers and provide a 10x return on advocacy so it makes sense to proactively target these people, incentivize them to produce content and then broadcast that content to key social and digital touch points.

As an example, let’s look at the Phoenix Suns who have one of the most active sports communities and frequently feature Member Celebrities. Two years ago the Suns found 4 Australian superfans who met on the Suns community and decided to take a month off to come to the US and follow the Suns. The Suns recognized the tremendous marketing and PR opportunity and contacted the fans to ask them to record their experience via blog posts, pictures and videos. The Suns then heavily promoted this trip, even branding it  “Destination Phoenix.” By the time the fans were in the last leg of the trip to see a series of Suns home games, they were so popular and well recognized, that other fans bombarded them before they even entered the arena.

For the last few home games, the Suns showed their appreciation for the fans and their contributions to the community by going the extra mile to rollout the red carpet. The Suns VP of operations chauffeured them to the game, they met players of past and present along with the GM and announcer, they got complete behind the scenes tours and received all kinds of autographs, paraphernalia, plus a ton of other swag.

By prominently featuring the superfans and giving them the platform to display all the incredible UGC they compiled along their journey, the Suns created Member Celebrities that were bigger brand advocates with more authentic messages than any paid celebrity could provide. The buzz within the Suns community was immense. There was a positive outcry from fans asking how they could receive the same kind of treatment. Traffic and engagement increased along with a steep rise in positive sentiment.

Featuring Member Celebrities as the stars of a branded community lets brands take advantage of the UGC opportunities driven by the Member Celebs and enables brands to broadcast a more authentic message. The goal is to leverage Member Celebs to inspire more advocacy and evangelism in an organic way; for a fraction of the price it would cost to employ paid celebrity endorsers.

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KickApps Rocks Social Media Week

I’m not usually into shameless plugs but it would be a travesty not to recognize the KickApps Dev team for putting together an exemplary social media experience for Social Media Week. From livestream video in multiple cities, to the interactive map, real-time Twitter stream and share functionality it really looks and functions superbly.

Also check out Alan Wolk moderating the Offense / Defense panel tonight at JWT at 6 p.m.

Below is a link to the Facebook page so you can see what I am talking about.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Social-Media-Week-New-York/165112893507912?v=app_4949752878