Today, the average person spends nearly two hours per day on social media. As individuals spend an increasing amount of time online they’re also demonstrating an aversion to ads. A recent study found that two out of three Millennials use an ad blocker on mobile and desktop, a number that’s likely even higher for Generation Z members.
In order to more authentically connect with consumers online, many marketers are implementing brand ambassador programs with social media influencers. Here we’ll define what a brand ambassador is, identify the benefits of building a brand ambassador program with influencers, and provide tips to guide your brand ambassador program.
Most simply, a brand ambassador is an individual who promotes a brand in order to raise awareness and boost sales. Brand ambassadors showcase company products and services, inform the public of relevant brand news, and promote and appear at live brand events. Ambassadors maintain ongoing relationships with brands, sometimes for a year or longer, and endorse the brand and its products over time.
Today, brand ambassadors typically take the form of social media influencers and/or celebrities given the enormous audiences both maintain online. Traditional celebrities are individuals who have risen to fame through success through traditional means oftentimes entertainment (e.g. TV, movies, sports). Social media influencers are those who create social media content around a specific niche and develop large audiences who trust their expertise on a specific topic.
Brand ambassadors are either paid or unpaid. Those that are unpaid receive compensation for promoting a brand in the form of free products, travel opportunities, tickets/invitations to events, and other non-monetary perks. Paid ambassadors are those that are monetarily compensated for collaborating with a brand.
There are many benefits to leveraging social media influencers as brand ambassadors. First and foremost, influencers present a valuable opportunity for brands to gain both exposure to and valuable engagement with their enormous online followings.
Additionally, influencers’ audiences trust their opinions, compared to celebrities who typically amass larger but more impersonal followings. Because influencers consistently create content around specific niches and topics, they are regarded as everyday relatable experts and tastemakers in their respective categories.
Consumers have also reported that they relate more strongly to social media influencers than traditional celebrities. 62% of eight to 24-year-olds say they would buy a YouTuber endorsed product over a celebrity endorsed product, which demonstrates influencers’ suitability for brand ambassador programs.
Overwhelmingly, influencers have the potential to be high-performing brand ambassadors because the audiences today, in particular, connect strongest with them and see them as trustworthy.
1. Establish your goals.
When designing a brand ambassador program with influencers marketers should start by clearly outlining program goals. An ambassador program can be used to drive sales, grow overall brand awareness, promote individual product launches, increase website traffic, and more. Advertisers should ask themselves why they’re building an ambassador program and outline KPIs that will be measured.
2. Define who your ideal ambassador is.
Brands should also consider the age, gender, geographic location, and interests of their ideal ambassador. Individuals often connect best with people who share characteristics with them, and therefore a brand’s ideal ambassador may reflect their target demographic.
Sportswear brand Lululemon is one example of a brand that has chosen its ambassadors wisely. In January 2017, professional surfer Malia Manuel announced her ongoing partnership with the company. As an athlete, Manual is well-positioned to reach Lululemon’s athletic target demographic of yogis, runners, swimmers, surfers, and sweaty generalists.
3. Partner with influencers who are already supporters of your brand.
Consumers increasingly view influencer marketing as more palatable than traditional advertising, with 70% of YouTube subscribers reporting that they relate to YouTubers more than traditional celebrities.
The authenticity that an influencer brings to promotional content can be compounded if that influencer has previously expressed organic support for a brand. Brands are best served by partnerships with influencers that truly love their products and can make genuine recommendations.
4. Outline clear contractual obligations.
Brands should create clear contractual obligations for ambassadors when building a brand ambassador program. Influencers should agree to a fixed number of branded posts per month or year. The length of the ambassador relationship should also be established.
American Express has become well known for its #AmexAmbassador program on Instagram. Influencers that are members of its ambassador program regularly showcase the company’s rewards program on Instagram by posting photos of themselves enjoying American Express perks such as exclusive airport lounges, parties, and trips.
5. Educate your ambassadors.
Brands should strive to create an honest connection with their ambassadors in the form of education and exposure to high-level company members. The more an ambassador knows about a brand’s inner workings and products, the better equipped they will be to share branded content with audiences.
Furthermore, if an ambassador can make detailed product recommendations they are likely to come across as more genuine to audiences.
Recently, Fresh Cosmetics took a group of social media influencers on a trip to Cambodia. On the trip, the influencers attended a “Product Sharing Session,” in which one of the company’s co-founders, Lev Glazman, educated the influencers on current and upcoming products.
The presentation served dual functions: (1) It prepared the ambassadors to provide followers with accurate information about product uses and benefits and (2) it fostered a personal relationship between the influencers and members of the company.
6. Work with ambassadors on more than just social media.
Aside from partnering with influencers on social media, brands can also feature ambassadors on their website, YouTube channel, and more. Ambassadors can also provide valuable product feedback and appear at live brand events.
The North Face is one company that highlights its ambassador program on its company website and leverages influencers beyond social media. The brand maintains a dedicated athlete page, which features professional athletes that the company sponsors.
On American rock climber and mountaineer Conrad Anker’s North Face page, website visitors can watch a video featuring Anker himself, learn about his many accomplishments, and explore his favorite North Face Gear. By featuring its ambassadors extensively, The North Face emphasizes the people that embody its brand ethos.
7. Start small and grow your ambassador program.
When building a brand ambassador program with influencers brands can start small and scale their program over time. An ambassador program is a long-term investment that requires patience. Brands should avoid overwhelming audiences with branded content and focus on building a lasting relationship with both influencers and consumers.