What are brand ambassadors, how are they different than influencers, and how can you create a successful ambassador program?
We’ll walk you through what a brand ambassador is, the difference between brand ambassadors and influencers, and creating a brand ambassador program best suited to your needs.
Table of Contents
- The New Age of Marketing
- Brand Ambassadors vs. Influencers
- Why Use Brand Ambassadors?
- How to Create a Successful Brand Ambassador Program
- 1. Find the Right Brand Ambassador for You
- Here are some guidelines that will help you source the right brand ambassador:
- Stay in your Niche
- Look at the Numbers
- Think Long Term
- 2. Selecting a Brand Ambassador Program that Fits Your Goals
- 3. Reach Out to Selected Brand Ambassadors
- 4. Set Up Your Campaign and Track Results
The New Age of Marketing
Social media has forever changed the way we create, place and consume content.
However, one thing has remained the same throughout the years – consumers trust other consumers more than they trust brands.
Organizations have always been aware of how powerful social proof can be, and with the availability of information in the Digital Age, social proof has become one of the most important pillars of a successful brand.
Instead of remaining faceless, brands are choosing to partner with influential individuals that align with their brand image and values.
These influential individuals are what we call brand ambassadors.
In the early to mid-1900s, companies worked with “brand managers” who were also sometimes called “product managers”.
In the early 2000s, the term brand manager was replaced with brand ambassador.
Brand ambassadors were typically celebrities (mainly actors or musicians) who were paid to endorse a brand and show up on various commercials and promotional material.
Back in 2012, for example, Beyoncé signed a whopping $50 million deal with Pepsi to become the brand’s global ambassador.
With the rise of social media, those who were once considered “ordinary people” now have the ability to build a following and have extraordinary influence over the masses by producing, publishing, and sharing content online.
Today, brand ambassador contracts expand far beyond celebrity branding.
This is also where the lines began to blur between what a brand ambassador was in comparison to similar terms, such as brand advocates or influencers.
Brand Ambassadors vs. Influencers
When brands consider partnerships, their minds usually jump to influencer marketing, and collaborating with celebrities and influential social media users that may not have reached a celebrity status, but still maintain a loyal following.
Suggested Reading: Instagram Influencer Marketing: A Start-to-Finish Guide
However, partnering with an influencer for a campaign is different than having a brand ambassador.
Influencers are usually used for a single campaign, and once that campaign is over, they end the collaboration with the brand. They may agree to work on future campaigns together, but they are not exclusively promoting a single brand.
Brand ambassadors are people who have agreed to collaborate with a brand on a long-term basis and as a result, become the “face” of the brand.
Put simply, a brand ambassador is always an influencer, but an influencer does not always become a brand ambassador.
Another term that usually adds to the confusion is “brand advocate”.
While brand ambassadors and influencers get compensated for their work and association with the brand, brand advocates support a brand not because they are paid, but because they are true fans.
Brand advocates, unlike influencers and brand ambassadors, do not always have social influence.
Understanding the differences between a brand ambassador program and an influencer program will help you determine which is a better fit for your brand.
Now that you understand the differences between a brand ambassador, influencer, and brand advocate, let’s see how you can benefit from brand ambassador marketing.
Why Use Brand Ambassadors?
According to a 2015 survey commissioned by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 96% of consumers don’t think that marketers practice integrity.
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust shows that for 81% of consumers, trust is a deciding factor in their buying decision.
It’s no longer enough for a brand to be creative and come up with snappy taglines and eye-catching ads.
The Edelman report shows that 74% of people, in fact, avoid ads.
So, how can a brand get ahead when ads are not seen by the majority of potential customers?
Easy – by using one of the oldest rules in the book: get someone who’s already trusted to talk about the brand.
Data shows that influencers could be your getaway to higher sales and increased consumer trust.
Audiences do not perceive sponsored content as blatant advertising, especially since many influencers are selective about the companies they work with, and only tend to recommend products they truly like.
By selecting an influencer to use as a brand ambassador, you will be able to tie their face to your brand.
Use this relationship to promote your products and build trust at the same time.
Brand ambassadors are key to putting an authentic touch on your marketing strategy.
How can you create a brand ambassador program that drives results?
How to Create a Successful Brand Ambassador Program
1. Find the Right Brand Ambassador for You
There are multiple ways you can identify potential brand ambassadors.
One option is to go through your list of followers on your social media channels and find an influential user who has been engaging with your posts regularly.
This technique will help you find a potential brand ambassador that’s already a fan.
The downside is, going about it this way is very time-consuming, especially if many people are already engaging with your content.
Another option is to search for hashtags that are related to your brand and what you do.
Look at the posts that show up under the “Top” tab – chances are, a lot of these creators whose content is trending already have an established follower base and can be a good fit.
For example, we searched for #FitGoals on Instagram and this is the result we got:
You need to determine if there is high engagement for each photo, and then review the profile of the creator and judge how their other posts are performing.
This is the only way you can see if someone’s activity and public image are in alignment with your needs and requirements.
A third way to do this is to join an influencer marketing platforms such as Upfluence, Post for Rent or Tribe.
These influencer marketing platforms will give you an overview of the influencers that work in your industry and provide you with insight into their statistics.
Members on these platforms are typically already open to collaboration, so you won’t be wasting time reaching out to people who are not interested in partnerships.
Despite whatever strategy you select, it’s best to test the waters with a couple of influencers to see who is delivering the highest ROI or is the best fit for your brand.
But how do you know that the individuals you choose reflect your brand image and are worth your money?
Here are some guidelines that will help you source the right brand ambassador:
Stay in your Niche
You wouldn’t want to contact a food blogger who specializes in baked goods if you’re looking to promote fitness gear.
We’ve seen it happen, and trust us, it doesn’t work.
Every influencer has a tribe of followers interested in a specific type of content.
If you get someone to promote your brand to their audience and their audience is not interested in the types of products you offer – you’re just wasting your time and money.
Look at the Numbers
Some believe that brand advocates and other fans with a very humble following can be great brand ambassadors who will promote the product to their narrow circle of friends and family.
We don’t agree.
A brand ambassador needs to be someone with an established audience.
They can be someone who loved your brand even before you contacted them, or didn’t know about the brand, but are using the products after you agreed to work together.
Regardless, they need to have influence, so that their recommendation reaches as many people as possible.
But what does having an “established audience” mean exactly?
It will all depend on your goals, budget, and business.
In general, we’d suggest working with someone who has at least 4000 – 5000 real followers.
It’s also important to check how many people are engaging with their content.
Although although helpful in making a preliminary selection, the number of followers is a vanity metric, and doesn’t actually show the social influence this person has in their community.
For example, if you have a tight budget but want to gain exposure, you’d be looking for someone who has anywhere between 4000-10000 followers, with a high engagement rate (>4%).
Think Long Term
When looking for a brand ambassador, you’re looking for an individual with whom you can have a long and rewarding relationship.
The person you choose to work with needs to carry themselves with professionalism both online and offline, always have your best interest in mind, and help you grow your brand, build trust, and attract new customers.
2. Selecting a Brand Ambassador Program that Fits Your Goals
Think about what you’re trying to achieve with your brand ambassador program, and how much you’re willing to invest.
Different brands offer different terms to their ambassadors and have different requirements for their programs.
There are a plethora of ways to set up your brand ambassador program:
- Send your ambassadors complimentary products.
- Offer your ambassadors a discount on your products.
- Pay the ambassadors on a retainer basis.
- With this payment model the brand ambassador agrees to be on-call for a fixed monthly fee.
- This fee needs to be paid regardless if you’ve tasked your ambassador with work or not.
- Create an affiliate program.
- Ambassadors get a commission on purchases linked from their promotional activities. Affiliate programs typically include a unique discount code that serves as an incentive for the audience to purchase.
You can also combine any of these options to build out your unique ambassador plan or use an affiliate program software like OSI Affiliate.
3. Reach Out to Selected Brand Ambassadors
After you’ve selected a program and compiled a list of influencers, it’s time to get in contact!
Keep in mind that some influencers are already getting many collaboration invitations, or may have ongoing contracts with other brands.
Sending a generic, copy and pasted message won’t get you their attention or a reply.
Take a look at the following example.
Do you think this company got an enthusiastic answer (or any answer at all)?
Just dropping a comment asking for a collab, or sending a generic direct message to someone you’d like to work with won’t cut it.
So instead of just popping up in your target’s inbox out of nowhere, you first want to engage with their posts by liking and commenting on them.
Ensure that you leave relevant and thoughtful comments – if you plan on just copy-pasting the same comment over and over again on every profile you stumble upon, it’s better not to do it at all.
When making direct contact with the influencer you’d like to be your brand’s ambassador, personalize your message by mentioning some relevant information they’ve shared with their followers.
Let’s say the influencer you’re contacting is on a 100 days squats challenge.
You might send them something like this:
It’s simple to establish meaningful contact to stand out.
4. Set Up Your Campaign and Track Results
Once you and your brand ambassadors have come to an agreement, you’re ready to give them their first task.
To make the collaboration enjoyable and friction-free, consider the following:
Communicate your expectations.
Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve, whether that’s more traffic to your website, higher sales, or increased follower numbers.
Let the ambassador know what metrics you’ll use to measure their results: sales, reach, engagement, ROI, traffic… select your key performance indicators based on your goals.
Sign a contract.
Put everything into writing: the terms, the compensation, the expected activities, the contract cancellation, and other policies that are relevant to the collaboration.
Give your ambassadors information about your brand, your mission and objectives, and explain what kind of content would be in line with your brand image.
Track everything your ambassadors do: how often they post, what kind of content they create, how much engagement each post related to your brand has, and more.
By measuring everything, you’ll easily determine the ambassadors that bring the most value and get some ideas on how you can optimize your strategy.
Brands nowadays have a hard time gaining the trust of the busy and often overwhelmed consumers. Surveys show that consumers trust fellow consumers and influencers more than they trust corporations.
Brand ambassador programs provide brands and influencers with a win-win scenario.
Brands can use the persuasive power and social reach of influencers to get on the radar of new audiences and build trust, and influencers can get compensated for recommending a product or a service.
Brand ambassadors are easy to integrate into your marketing strategy.
When curating brand ambassador programs, they can be easily tailored to fit different objectives and even the smallest of budgets.
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