Teri Conrad: Ambassador Programs & The Influencer Marketing Conundrum

Connect-SF-ambassadors-imageAs an Ambassador both formally and informally with a number of different organizations/companies and individuals I have come to a few conclusions about the best way to harness Influencer Marketing.

A couple of thoughts: For Inman the program works fairly well and there are a couple of reasons.

1. The Ambassadors are respected professionals within the Real Estate Vertical who have achieved their own level of success and have developed their own ‘club’ which is cemented at every conference etc. They happily promote each other and build friendships and established referal networks. See The Best of the Best Inman Connect Ambassadors Announcement

2. Inman does a good job of shining the light BACK on the Ambassadors.
3. The inherent ‘profile raising
4. Opportunities to be ‘published‘ on Inman Next
However at one point we (The Ambassadors) were referred to as ‘Super Fans’ and aligned with an image of a crazed football super fan with his face all painted up and a crazed look in his eye!
That was NOT cool. I am not some crazy fan. I am a professional who worked hard to establish myself as a contributor and a thought leader amongst my peers. It was the first time that I felt like I was being ‘used’. Like I said: NOT cool.

Brian Solis and The Pivot Conference:

The Ambassador program for The Pivot Conference its a tad more structured, directed and has a more robust technologically driven back end. BUT the community is missing. And I believe it’s the nature of the beast. For instance, Pivot’s core target audience are Fortune 500 CEOs most of which are NOT hanging out on Twitter. Most of the Ambassadors (from what I can tell) are smaller Social Media enthusiasts and community managers. It’s not necessarily a great fit as our audiences tend not to be the target. In terms of generating basic ‘buzz’ its fine, but I highly doubt we’re driving much traffic to ticket sales.
This year we were ‘tasked’ with pre-constructed tweets to share which is helpful in terms of time savings and a little nudge to remember to share. The overall experience is honestly more expectation and less reward other than the opportunity to be aligned with a killer brand and promoting a product I believe in.  Pivot has incorporated a ‘game’ of point collection for level of engagement but in my opinion it lessons the value of the engagement in the first place.A simple improvement would be creating a little community amongst their ambassadors and get them talking and cross promoting vs competing against each other. It would also be prudent to give us front row access at the event and get us writing our own posts/videos etc to be shared. (Inman does this well.)

AJ Leon’s Team of Misfits

misfit dinner Vancouver

Misfit Dinner Vancouver Fall 2012

Now AJ Leon and his team of Misfits have built the best possible program and probably because it’s not really a program at all. It’s more of a tight exclusive club! You feel like an insider and that’s because you are. AJ invites you in and makes you feel welcome and valued and part of the family. Its a select group of people who have been long time fans and natural promoters. He regularly communicates with us in private emails, we’re first to know of big announcements and projects and treasured as his own ‘small army’ of loyal fans. It’s natural and organic. No scheduled tweets. No formal structure. No expectations. Instead there is a sense of belonging, being valued and being part of something great! A MOVEMENT! The promotion happens naturally because there is a sense of ownership and connection.
So….For an Ambassador program to work you have to:
1. Tap into your natural fans. Who’s already promoting you? Who seems genuinely loyal and share similar Brand Values? The Connected Consumer isn’t interested in BS. There has to be an authentic SHARE.
2. Encourage a sense of community and a feeling of inclusivity. Bring your fans inside.
3. Allow for personal access to the ‘Stars’. Reach out and touch them from time to time.
4. Respect & Recognition for expertise. Let them know you value them and they’re worth taking a moment to connect.
5. Provide insider knowledge and advance notice of big announcements. Keep them in the loop!
6. Give back. Include special perks only to the ambassadors. Sometimes all it takes a personal note/email or taking a moment to read and comment on their blogs! (Hat tip to Kare Anderson and AJ Leon for rocking that one!)
These steps will work great for community organizations and conferences but for big brands you may want to take a page out of the Zappos play book.  They have made their employees their number 1 Ambassadors by incorporating HAPPINESS directly into their culture. With the Connected Consumer having unlimited access to your brand, its paramount that your internal employees buy in and share your values and believe in you!
What I see people doing wrong in all marketing is constantly PUSHING. Always asking and never giving. If you want people to be your brand advocates they have to get something out of the experience, and EXPERIENCE is the key word in this ever competitive grab for attention market.
For the original post go to: http://www.tericonrad.ca/tag/influencer-marketing/