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.
What I mean to say is that, the vision we all had of the online Community is dead, or rather it’s evolved. This means that all those Community links in the primary or secondary navs linking off to separate and contained communities are a thing of the past.
Many sites that have communities have been operating under the false assumption that their Community needs to exist separately from their editorial content. Other sites who did realize the disconnect still didn’t take the time to seamlessly integrate Community features into their existing experience. The result is many of the communities we see today, bolted on as an afterthought in an attempt at social due-diligence, but not a true or seamless social integration. Those are the communities of the past. The brands and agencies who’ve had the foresight to realize the disconnect AND have also taken the necessary steps to address it have created what you see below: a seamless integration between content and Community.
This is a purely music-oriented site but the great thing is that artists and listener profiles are comingled. Musician profiles are called out via a different look but they sit alongside the listener’s profiles. Additionally, the flow of the sight evokes a sense of social seamlessness that can’t be mirrored in the old Community model. You move from song, to artists, to other listeners and their comments on the song. It’s so intuitive that you feel like the site has Artificial Intelligence; but really it’s simply an online Community that makes sense.
This is what a truly social Community should be. That means: content consumption, comments, ratings and mood polling are all part of a unified, holistic experience. Editorial content flows nicely into UGC as opposed to having all the UGC, profiles, groups and forums contained in a silo, separate and removed from the meat of the site. The goal is to have all these key features stitched together in a way that is highly functional and makes sense.