Brand Advocates and Brand Voice in Social Media

What is a brand advocate in Social Media?

This is something we as marketers find ourselves asking a lot. According to Webopedia, a brand advocate is a person, or customer who talks favorably about a brand or product, and then passes on positive word-of-mouth messages about the brand to other people.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Where are the mis-steps happening that we can’t disipher a positive mention from a brand advocate? Where are we failing to ignite these brand advocates? Let me explain a quick cycle to you:

1. Brand determines ‘brand voice’ (how their customers should be spoken to, and how all outbound communication should sound. A standard, you could say.)

2. Brand uses said ‘voice’ in marketing, public relations, customer service, sales etc. for outbound communications.

3. Customer complaint arises on Facebook page, customer is very upset about a problem they are having with their product.

4. Brand ignores said complaint, as replying would not comply with ‘Brand Voice’ (Say kind & fun are your brand drivers)

5. Customer never buys a product from said brand ever again.

The perfect example of this cycle is Netflix. With the recent hike in subscription costs, customers were expressing their anger through venues such as Facebook and Twitter. Netflix was not expecting such an uptake of negative comments, and decided to go about business as usual – Ignoring Facebook posts/Twitter mentions, and posting their regularly scheduled posts. People got angrier, more vocal, as time surpassed – mainly because Netflix was, in fact, ignoring them.

Why didn’t they respond?

I can bet that they didn’t want to deal with all the flack they were receiving and thought it was better for the brand to hide the user comments on Facebook then risk pissing off people more than they already had. They know people are talking about them. The worst part in all this, is that they are losing their brand advocates. If you read through some of the comments, you can see people saying things like this:

This guy is begging Netflix to give him a reason to stay. He obviously likes the promise of the service, and is literally giving them a chance to salvage their relationship. Chances are, they will not respond, this guy will cancel his membership, and it’s a done deal. Way to go.

The main problem that we, as marketers have, is that we don’t know the difference between a positive mention, and a true brand advocate. Someone can like your brand, but they will stay silent about it. Not telling anyone that they secretly use your product 12 hours a day. These people can turn on you really quickly, as soon as they find something wrong with your offering or product and thus become a detractor. You can bet they’ll tell people when they don’t like you, though. A brand advocate is not always someone who posts something nice on your Facebook page, because their sharing their love with you, but not with their social network. A brand advocate could possibly be the person who doesn’t even follow you on Twitter – but mentions your product in their tweets every day. If someone was saying “I Love Netflix!” and praising the features and selection that they have in their Facebook status – that is a true brand advocate. They’re telling their friends about you, which might in turn equal a purchase from someone in their network. Your employees are also brand advocates (If they’re not, you have a hiring problem) so empowering them is just as important as empowering the people who buy your product. If your employees don’t believe in your brand, your customers won’t either.

Now, back to my issue with ‘Brand Voice’. We, as marketers, are programmed to develop “marketing personas” and decide how we would position our products and branding to these imaginary people. Stop it. It’s not 1996 anymore – we now have the most powerful market research tool at our disposal – that being social media. My problem with this voice in social media, is that it makes you as a brand look cold. You’re audiences are all different – get used to it. They are different ages, different genders, and will not necessarily own your products and won’t always be a brand ambassador. Social media is about much more than outbound communication – it’s about 2 way communication, which is HUMAN communication. Therefore, it cannot be standardized, shoot. point. game.

I don’t have a problem with consistency, it’s good to be consistent – But be real. Human interaction cannot be standardized and we are disappointing our brand advocates by treating them the same way that we treat people who just mention us positively once in their lifetime. My thinking is that we should change the term Brand Voice – to Point of Difference. Why would someone WANT to talk to you, what makes your style of communication with your brand advocates and customers and potential customers unique?


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