Why barriers are essential for the success of your brand advocacy program

His brows raised high up, mouth wide open, in total awe he said, can you believe it they have a one year waiting period to get into their brand advocacy program, what’s even more amazing it’s limited to just a 130 people worldwide. How can I get in? Could you tell me what to do?

And in another completely contrasting conversation, Just fill this form and you’re in, part of our loyalty program… what did you think I did, I just smiled and walked away.

The first conversation was by a person who wanted to know how to get into a particular brand advocacy program by one of the largest software companies in the world. The other conversation… it’s not worth even mentioning.

The barrier advantage

Barrier to entry

As soon as you see a line of people snaking outside a store, you’re almost certain there is something of value. You curiosity is definitely piqued.

But there is a bigger reason to have a barrier to your brand advocacy program, it allows you to get the most passionate the most dedicated people in and keeps the masses away.

Note I’m not saying the masses are bad, but when you want a tight knit team you can depend on, you need to be extremely choosy.

And barriers help you qualify, and not just have anybody who may not currently be right for your brand advocacy program.

In fact you’ll realize that for different stages of your brand advocacy program you’ll probably need different kinds of brand advocates, more on that in another article.

Won’t barriers piss people off?


It will piss people off, and mostly those are the kinds of people you really don’t want in your brand advocacy program.

In your brand advocacy program you want the people who are cheering for you, the people who are concerned about you. No, they’re not yes men, they’re probably your most open and vocal critics but they’re providing you that feedback because they believe in you and hope that you do the needful.

They’re not the kind of people who just want to poke holes and look good. They are passionate well-wishers. They’re the kind of people who don’t need to be really told, they’re the ones who passionately reach out to others as they want to help them.

So yes barriers can piss people off and you need to be careful of the kind of barriers you put in place to ensure that you get the people who are appropriate for you inside and the others outside.

What are the good barriers you need to put in your brand advocacy program?

1. Expertise


Brand advocates are typically experts about a product, they’re passionately interested and others look up to them for advice as they know the innards of the particular product.

It’s easy to spot these experts, they could be authors of articles, books or even passionately blogging or speaking about your product or service. Providing tips and sharing best practices and supporting others.

You want these passionate experts to be a part of your inner circle of brand advocates. You definitely want this barrier in place to ensure success of your brand advocacy program.

2. Activity level

Activity Frequency

Brand Advocacy is never a onetime activity.

Unlike a person who likes a typical Facebook page and then in all probability never returns to the page. The brand advocate is a regular, who is constantly involved with the product and regularly interacts with your team, provides guidance on a regular basis or blogs regularly about your product or service.

A good way of evaluating a brand advocate is the level of activity, for instance the number of conversations or blog posts or sessions they speak at about your product or service.

Moreover, you might want them to report back to you about their activities. Making sure that they are aware of this can at times ensure that only the most active participants make it into the program.

Often you might ask them to share why they should be considered to be part of your brand advocacy program. This could be in the form of them sharing for instance their blog posts or list of sessions they’ve spoken at or similar other activities they may have been doing.

It helps to ensure that they are aware that you expect to know and encourage the regular sharing of activity details as part of the program.

3. Time


This is a different one with multiple aspects, so do pay extra attention.

Brand advocates though they’re long time participants, are not necessarily good for each stage of your brand advocacy program. Sometimes your best brand advocates might not necessarily be visible online or might not be visible publicly. However, in the start-up phase of your brand advocacy program you might want to include people who are more vocal online or offline and are more visible out there in the public view. You might want people to be included whose frequency of visible activity is on the higher side.

As your program grows over a period of time you might focus on a different set of brand advocates.

Additionally, you don’t want your brand advocates to just be around, so putting in a time barrier like a renewal period for e.g. once a year might be a great idea to ensure that your brand advocacy program has the relevant advocates in them.

It also ensures that your brand advocates clearly know that they will be revaluated at a certain point of time. This is a very different kind of barrier and you need it to ensure the success of your program.

Can you have different brand advocacy programs with different barriers? Should we have one or more barriers?

Yes can definitely have different barriers for different brand advocacy programs. For e.g. look at Microsoft’s brand advocacy programs, you have the MVP and the Regional Director(RD) program. Here there are various different kind of barriers. The MVP program has close to 4000 people as part of it, whereas the RD program has typically had less than 150 members in it. Similarly in the MVP program MVP’s are selected based on demonstrated expertise in one specific product. The MVP program duration is for a period of one year, the RD program is for two years now, it initially was a yearly program too.

There are multiple different kinds of barriers in play here, however be careful, you don’t want to piss of the good guys. You want to be selective for sure, but not restrictive to the extent of alienating the people you want to be inside.

Barriers are essential to ensure a healthy brand advocacy program

To summarize, barriers can prove to be extremely beneficial, and judicious barriers are essential for the success of your brand advocacy program. Barriers ensure you have the right kind of participants at different stages of your brand advocacy program to meet your success metrics. You need to evaluate which barriers put in place to get the apt brand advocates for your program.

Key Stakeholder Online reputation management – Part 2

Authority EstablishmentEstablishing authority of key spokespersons involves four key steps:
1. Content Creation 2. Engagement 3. Promotion, and the most powerful 4. Leverage employee, influencer, brand advocates and partner networks

(Read part 1 to understand how to manage online reputation of key stakeholders by establishing stakeholder identity)

1. Content Creation

Content CreationContent is the currency for establishing authority online. It could be content you create or content which features you. It has to convey your point of view. It’s not just about creating the content, it’s about ensuring it’s available for consumption in multiple formats. The content needs to be focused on the particular practice, theme or industry in which the spokesperson is trying to establish authority.

Multiple Formats

There are multiple forms of content, long form(blog posts, articles, presentation slides) or short insights. There are various media formats as well, textual, audio, video.

Multiple Formats of Content 2

When building reputation of your key stakeholders in the enterprise your strategy has take into consideration the offline PR activities being undertaken as well. You’d leverage offline PR opportunities as they typically get featured in online versions of popular news sites as well.

There are three core concepts for a successful content strategy, ensuring that it address the customer journey, is sticky and leverages the network effect which I cover below as well.

The challenge with content

You need to create content regularly. Often this is a challenge as key spokespersons may not have the time to do this on a regular basis. Ghost written content based on inputs of key stakeholders is the reality you need to be prepared for. This would involve multiple interviews with spokespersons to know and capture their POV.

2. Engagement

Engagement is one of the pillars in establishing authority. Only pushing content online without being available to engage with your audience can be a deal breaker. In the case of key spokespersons this can be challenging.

Engagement for building relationshipsHowever online technologies definitely make it easier, from Google hangouts to doing chats on twitter, scheduled engagement is the way to enable engagements.

3. Promotion

Here’s the deal, there is a ton of content online and more content being produced each day. Getting your voice out to the correct audience is getting even more difficult each day.

You spend a lot of time on creating your content. You need to spend at least an equivalent or more time in ensuring it reaches out to the right audiences.

Promoting content online, whether it’s via online PR or submissions to repositories and social bookmarking sites is a necessity.


The challenge with promotion is finding the right mix

You can get completely lost in promoting your content across the various social networks, bookmarking sites etc. The reality is you need to experiment and figure out what works for you. There is no silver bullet to ensure that your content reaches the correct audience.

4. Leverage influencer, brand advocates and partner networks

The most powerful leverage you have at the enterprise level is your employees, influencers, brand advocates and partner networks. This is a force multiplier in terms of promoting your content and helping establish yourself as an authority.

Leverage Influencer and Partner Networks

The more independent third parties link to you and connect with your primary content, the easier it is to establish your online reputation and authority.

The biggest advantage of working with your networks is the access it provides you to their trusted network. This is the fastest way to reach out to larger audiences via their trusted sources. This additionally helps in automatically increasing your reach and reputation.

How to leverage your networks

Here are a couple of quick ways you can leverage your employees, influencers, brand advocates and partners, collectively referred to as your networks:

– Provide exclusive content which can be released through your networks – This enables you to amplify your messages reach exponentially.

–  Exclusive Access – Most influencers and brand advocates want access to the key spokespersons, provide them exclusive access. This enables you to provide engagement in a controlled way and helps in building reputation and authority. This is beneficial even to the networks as they want that exclusive engagement.


As more and more business and individuals publish information online you stand a chance to be lost in the volume of content. Establishing authority of key spokespersons necessitates that you take the four steps of creating content, engaging regularly and promoting by leveraging employee, influencer, brand advocates and partner network.

Key Stakeholder Online reputation management

How to increase the presence and equity of key spokespeople, stakeholders, in the digital space, is a key concern for Marketing and Communications specialists today.

The two elements of Individual Reputation Management

Building a personal online reputation involves two aspects.

  1. Stakeholder Identity Establishment
  2. Stakeholder Authority Establishment

Stakeholder Identity Establishment

Stakeholder identity establishment ensures that when people search for the name of the stakeholder that stakeholders information comes up easily.

Authority Establishment 2

Stakeholder authority establishment ensures that when people search for that particular practice, industry or theme in which the stakeholder wants to be looked upon as an authority, that stakeholders relevant information comes up.

How to Establish Stakeholder Identity or Personal SEO

To ensures that when people search for the name of the individual or stakeholder that stakeholders information comes up easily means one has to establish that persons name presence across various online information sources such as directories, social media networks, repositories.

Stakeholder Identity Establishment - Detail

1. The first place to start – Individual domain name

Nothing beats having your own domain name for e.g. www.sanjayshetty.com. Today there are a multitude of domain extensions available. Grab your name. An owned property provides the most flexibility in maintaining the most detailed version of a persons identity. Make sure the profile is as detailed as possible here. Moreover social networks and other locations online may disappear in time and an owned property gives you absolute control. There are no restrictions on the amount of content you can put up for a stakeholder or the links to other profiles or sites.

2. Make your content feel personal – Google Authorship

You can link content you publish to your Google+ profile. This obviously means creating a Google+ profile first.

Google Authorship

This helps in two ways it shows people who you are and ensures that Google knows when you publish more information. This is a must do. For each stakeholder or spokesperson ensure that you have a completely filled Google+ profile and content authorship is clearly established.

3. Establish your social presence

Ensure you have your name established on popular social sites beginning with Google Plus which enables you to tie in your id to the content you produce. You’d need to figure out what is important but the usual suspects are LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn profiles rank high make sure it’s complete, same goes for Twitter.

If you contribute to third party websites, make sure you fill your profiles out there. The bio pages for guest bloggers often contribute to rank at the top of page one in searches for the authors name. Contributing on a popular site can cause the profile to be ranked high for a long time. One more important point here is to ensure that each of your social profiles link back to your website or your blog.

Establish your Social Profile

4. Establish your presence on Social Repositories

Sites like Quora the question and answer site, presentation repositories like Slideshare and Scribd are great at building and establishing your identity.

All the above are just ways to establish your identity. Its kind of like staking claim of your own name in cyberspace. This however is just the first step in building your reputation online.

What’s Next?

In part 2 of this article I’m going to cover how to take this to the next level and How to manage the online reputation of Key Stakeholders by building their Authority and I’ll also cover challenges in online reputation management.


Google Authorship – Google+



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