Mind the brand advocacy gap

Getting your brand mentioned in a high-reach media property is valuable. Triggering an authentic "gush" of passion for a brand is an order of magnitude more valuable.

Getting your brand mentioned in a high-reach media property is valuable. Triggering an authentic “gush” of passion for a brand is an order of magnitude more valuable.

Most brands have two problems. First, most online mentions from consumers and media across Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, and other social networks are neutral or could be called “casual advocacy.” That's akin to a Facebook “like” vs. a full-on endorsement. People are reporting what they are doing or what they are hearing, but few are expressing their love or appreciation for the brand. Passionate advocacy is rare.

Second, for every interaction with a brand – for every hotel stay, for every movie viewed, for every test-drive – there just aren't that many people sharing their thoughts online. In fact, we found “in the US hotel category… [there is] less than one advocacy mention per 100 stays. With some of the studied hotels reporting guest satisfaction scores of 80% or more, there's clearly a large social advocacy gap: the vast majority of people satisfied with their experience aren't advocating online.”

Passion advocacy around the world
What's going on? That's what we set out to find in the 2013 Social@Ogilvy Brand Advocacy Study that we are releasing next week. We looked at more than 7 million mentions across 23 brands and four countries. For all of the energy some brands are pouring into getting shared on Facebook, very little attention seems to be paid to driving passionate advocacy or even a frequency of mentions for those actually experiencing a product or service.

In the flurry of activity to master some seemingly new type of content marketing where we create “content calendars” full of the mundane to the compelling, brands may have lost sight of a most interesting opportunity – earning passionate advocacy and getting more of their customers to share more often.

There is a simplicity to pushing content out via social platforms. With instant feedback, any marketer can see which content is being shared the most. One pitfall of this approach is to become a slave to “engagement metrics” where community managers start chasing after high numbers at the expense of any purpose to the brand.

Gaining passionate advocacy or something “north” of casual advocacy is more complex. We found differences between China, Brazil, the US, and the UK. The overall advocacy levels, casual to passionate, were highest in China, whereas the most passionate levels occurred in the US and UK. We found differences between categories – from hotels to fast-moving consumer goods. And we found differences between brands. It takes a careful analysis of the data to understand why people share about a Kimpton Hotel versus an Intercontinental Hotel. Knowing what your “talk-drivers” are takes work.

As recommendations from friends, family, and social connections increasingly affects purchase decisions and behaviors, brands should “mind the brand advocacy gap” and shift energy to driving more actual recommendations and more passionate advocacy – perhaps even above “content marketing.”

John Bell is global MD of Social@Ogilvy and he publishes the social media business blog The Digital Influence Mapping Project. Find him on Twitter at @jbell99.

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