How to start a brand ambassador program from scratch

14 Oct

You don’t have to look hard to find an up-and-coming brand ambassador program on social media.

That’s because modern companies are looking to reach customers beyond traditional ad campaigns.

With the growing popularity of unfiltered content and “everyday” influencers, brands are looking to build relationships with satisfied customers who can advertise for them.

Not only do your customers already know the ins and outs of your brand, but also introduce your products to your intended audience.

And by rolling out your own ambassador program, you can do the same.

However, a successful program doesn’t happen by accident.

In this guide, we’ll highlight what you need to do to start your own brand ambassador program.

What is a brand ambassador program, anyway?

Let’s kick things off with a couple of quick definitions!

At a high level, a brand ambassador is simply someone who speaks positively about your company. Brand ambassadors on social media shout-out your business, show off their latest purchases and recommend you to their followers.

Your ambassadors are your ride-or-die fans. They know you. They “get” you. They’re the first to “Like” and comment on your latest posts.

Meanwhile, a brand ambassador program is a company-wide initiative to seek out people who meet the criteria above and encourage them to promote your brand.

Ambassador programs are traditionally invite-only, but bigger brands accept applications or hold contests to find brand advocates.

AND THE WINNER IS… 🏆 Introducing our Born This Way Ambassador, Alegria Jimenez! 🎉 Congratulations on winning our Born This Way Perfect Match Challenge, Gorgeous! #tfbornthiswaycontest #toofaced

Posted by Too Faced Cosmetics on Saturday, August 15, 2020

Brand ambassador programs are all the rage right now and understandably so.

Based on what we know about millennials and Gen Z, the average consumer relies on recommendations from social media when researching products and services. They want to hear from people first and brands second.

Since ambassadors are truly unfiltered and authentic, they’re able to promote your products without being super sales-y about it. Also, conventional wisdom says that your advocate’s followers will likely match your business’ audience. It’s a win-win.

How is a social media brand ambassador different from an influencer?

Good question! At a glance, influencer marketing campaigns and brand ambassador programs might seem identical.

That said, they’re not the same.

Generally, ambassadors represent longer-term relationships. Whereas a company might work with an influencer for a one-off or multi-post campaign, an ambassador typically works with a brand for months on end, if not longer.

Relationships with influencers are typically more transactional, too. Although brand ambassador programs usually involve some sort of financial compensation, true ambassadors would be willing to shout out your product organically.

Also, many brand ambassadors will only work with one company at a time. For example, note how this GoPro Ambassador‘s entire Instagram bio and presence at large is tied to the brand.

Which types of companies have social brand ambassador programs?

The beauty of brand ambassador programs is that they’re pretty much fair game for any industry.

Of course, such programs are massive in ecommerce given how competitive the space is. Retail and beauty brands, in particular, have robust ambassador programs on social media because their products are straightforward to show off to customers.

That said, new programs are popping up all the time. From SaaS and gaming to technology and even medicine, brands such as Twitch, NectarSleep, Zenni Optical and Xbox all boast ambassador programs.

The takeaway? If your brand has a decent social following and an audience that’s willing to hype you up, chances are there’s potential for your own program.

How do I find brand ambassadors, though?

Perhaps the easiest way to identify a potential ambassador is by finding fans and followers already engaged with your brand.

For example, check out your @mentions and #hashtags to see who’s scoring the most engagement when shouting you out. If there’s a particular customer that you recognize or has gone back-and-forth with you in the past, chances are they’d be a candidate.

You can also hone in on potential brand advocates using tools like Sprout Social. For example, social listening allows you to search for specific terms and hashtags related to your company.

sprout social listening to find new brand ambassadors

Beyond social media, you can cross-reference your customer data or CRM to identify your biggest spenders and most dedicated customers. From there, you can assess their social following to see if there’s potential for a partnership.

You can alternatively create a brand ambassador program that requires some sort of application process. For example, Pura Vida’s ambassador program on social media works similarly to that of a traditional referral program with commissions.

pura vida ambassador program how it works

There are some downsides of allowing your ambassadors to apply to join your program, though.

For starters, it’s obviously time-consuming to both create an application process (think: intake forms, legalese) and sift through applications.

Many ambassador programs also tend to attract people who are more interested in growing their own social following or scoring free swag versus actually forming a relationship with your brand.

By contrast, an invite-only ambassador program ensures that you only work with people who are legitimately dedicated to your company and actually understand what your brand is all about.

5  steps to setting up a brand ambassador program on social media

The good news is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to putting together an ambassador program. This gives your brand some flexibility when starting your own.

Want to keep your circle of advocates relatively small with only a handful of members? Interested in assembling an army of ambassadors to promote your brand more aggressively? The choice is yours.

Either way, here is a quick rundown of how to create an ambassador program from the ground up.

1. Define the goals of your ambassador program

We talk a lot about setting social media goals and rightfully so.

You shouldn’t start a brand ambassador program “just because.” Doing so requires an investment of your time and energy: you need to understand what you’ll be getting out of your program before getting it started.

Most programs are centered around raising brand awareness versus sales. As such, you’ll likely be tracking metrics related to mentions, hashtag usage and follower growth as you roll out your program.

For example, AverMedia has specific hashtags tied to their ambassador program…

avermedia hashtags partnership program

…which their ambassadors share to hype up their products.

And if you’re on the hunt for more sales, you’ll need to tie your brand ambassador campaigns to specific tracking links and campaigns.

Knowing your end-game beforehand will make it easier to identify ambassadors who can help you reach those goals.

2. Establish your criteria for your brand ambassadors

Not anyone and everyone should be part of your program.

No two brands are going to have the same requirements for their ambassadors. Even so, here are some criteria to consider which picking people to reach out to:

  • How long have they been a customer?
  • How much have they engaged with your brand in the past?
  • What does their engagement rate on social media look like?
  • How many followers do they have?

For example, Paul Mitchell’s brand ambassador requirements are pretty simple: you must be a U.S. resident, have 10,000+ social followers and be “passionate,” however they define that.

paul mitchell brand ambassador program requirements

 

3. Create brand ambassador policies and guidelines

Arguably the biggest benefit of working with brand ambassadors versus influencers is that ambassadors require less hand-holding.

You don’t need to craft all of their messages or micromanage them. Ideally, they already understand your company and approach to promos.

Still, hooking them up with a style guide and set of expectations is helpful. For example, you obviously want them to maintain their own personal voice but you also don’t want them needlessly trashing competitors.

You obviously need to make sure that they’re promoting the right products and hashtags for any given campaign, too.

Keep in mind also that ambassadors are a reflection of your brand. Like any other partnership, you’re going to have to vet their social presence to ensure that their values and beliefs align with your company’s. In short, do your homework.

4. Promote, empower and incentivize your ambassadors

Remember: working with a brand ambassador represents a long-term relationship.

From freebies and financial compensations to giving them shout-outs on your own account, make sure that ambassadors understand what’s in it for them by working with you.

For example, Twitch regularly promotes their own ambassadors to their 7m+ Twitter and 5m+ Instagram followers. This helps ambassadors grow their own channels and social presence.

5. Track the progress of your ambassador program

Like everything else related to social media, you need to assess what’s working and what’s not.

For example, when tracking hashtag analytics with Sprout Social, you can keep an eye on the performance of ambassador-related hashtags.

As your campaigns grow, you can figure out whether your campaigns are hitting their targets in terms of engagement.

Sprout social hashtag analytics dashboard

Interested in putting together your own brand ambassador program?

Anything you can do to get more people talking you up on social media is a plus.

And an ambassador program is the perfect way to do exactly that.

Hopefully, these brand ambassador best practices can serve as a solid starting point for putting together your own program.

Beyond that, make sure to check out the latest Sprout Social Index for the latest trends to help you grow your social presence!

This post How to start a brand ambassador program from scratch originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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