I’ve been blogging professionally for three years and from time to time, I have participated in brand ambassadorship programs. In that time, I have seen what works, what doesn’t, and have come up with new ideas for these programs. For those of you who are not sure what they are, they are basically a promotional campaign involving individuals who use, love, & want to share a brand with others. Generally these ambassadors are bloggers, influencers, and/or socially connected individuals that are selected by a brand/ business to share the word about the brand’s products and other promotional campaigns. Campaigns extend beyond a mere review & giveaway into a set period of time, requirements, and compensation, monetary or not. Now there are brand ambassadors that do things on their own without any return, but these are not the type I am talking about here. When we are speaking about individuals who are professional influencers, some form of compensation is generally expected in return for the work they take on.
Are They Effective?
*Photo courtesy of Klout
Yes! In fact, they can be more effective than an advertising campaign. Smart brands are actually beginning to pay bloggers to appear in ads to tie in their role as an influencer and because (as per a study conducted by BlogHer), women reported trusting a sponsored blogger endorsement over a celebrity endorsement or Facebook conversation.
They are most effective when they are targeted properly. Ineffective brand ambassadorship programs commit some critical errors and I am going to break some of them down for you below:
- They Focus on the Quantity, Not The Quality
Many PR companies representing a brand will focus on the # of blog followers, # of unique visitors, # of social media followers & fans, Alexa rank, Compete Rank, Klout Score, etc. However, a blogger/ influencer can have a huge network of people that don’t take a lot of action or fit the audience the brand is targeting OR you could have a blogger/ influencer with a small number of followers, but a huge amount of influence over the purchasing decisions of those followers and/or those followers align more tightly with the brand’s target market. Brands should be evaluating the potential ambassador based on more than blanket numbers. Potential ambassadors must be properly vetted and brands should actually follow potential candidates to see how they engage- don’t just rely on the numbers.
- The Program Has Too Many Requirements or Too Much Control Over Content
The key to a good ambassadorship program is that you need to let go of a little control. Bloggers/ Ambassadors are trusted based on their own opinions, not some sponsored post copy you provide them. If a blogger can only use the content you provide, then you are using them as a hired gun. If the blogger has to run everything by you, including a tweet, then you are not allowing them to do the job they know how to do- which is influence others and share their passion for your brand. Also, if you are requiring a ridiculous amount of work for the program and not providing adequate compensation to match it, then this can lead to ambassador burnout.
- The Program Doesn’t Take Advantage of the Ambassador’s Strengths
As much as brands are drawn to make things standardized, there has to be a level of customization based on the influencer’s strengths. For instance, if the ambassador has a large & engaged Twitter following and a mediocre Facebook following, don’t make your outreach methods focus on Facebook posts. Focus on the individual’s strengths and choose outreach efforts that cater to those strengths. If the brand’s goal is to increase Facebook following, then choose an ambassador who is influenctial on Facebook. In fact, a good program targets influencers who excel on different platforms.
- The Program Doesn’t Ask for the Ambassador’s Opinion
The best programs allow the ambassador to be a collaborator. One of my first programs involved a special group set-up where we could provide our feedback to the brand directly. I believe bloggers/ ambassadors should be allowed to come up with ideas for the ambassador program as they are speaking from an insider perspective.
- The Ambassadors Are Not Really Brand Enhusiasts
Let’s face it, when you are a new blogger who does reviews, you hear big name brands and you jump on the wagon to work with them even if you don’t use the product on a regular basis. It’s not anything sinister. It’s just that you are learning how to boost your readership and you think association with those brands will do that for you. However, from a brand’s perspective, they should be making sure that the ambassador actually uses their products, shops in their stores, etc. I mean, I couldn’t be a brand ambassador for Nieman Marcus because I never shop there, but I shop at Target & Walmart all of the time. The ambassador has to be a true brand enthusiast who knows, loves and wants to share their passion for the brand with others. Sometimes bloggers are introduced to new things and become instant ambassadors. For instance, I love the concept of Sendout Cards and I have found myself telling people about it and I have never been a disributor. I have been a recipient of the cards though. In cases such as this, the brand should do something small with the blogger first so that when they become an ambassador, it is not such a shock to the audience.
- No Compensation or Inadequate Compensation
I was involved with this one program where our only compensation was a badge for our website, a totebag, a mug, and the ability to be in an exclusive group for the ambassadors. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if we were not required to answer weekly polls, tweet things, blog about things, share events and giveaways, and the list goes on. For some ambassadors, this might be fine because they would be involved compensation or not. However, the professional influencers are doing what they do to support themselves and a totebag & mug just aren’t going to cut it, especially for the 12+ hours worth of work the program required. Again, I am not advocating hired guns, but I do feel that the ambassador’s time should be valued. There are many brands out there providing some decent to really good compensation for the work of an ambassador. Sometimes compensation can involve trips, events, and other intangibles that might also show the ambassador that they are appreciated.
Make sure you create a program with the input of professional influencers so you can avoid these aforementioned critical fails. Here’s how I can help: Some of you may be familiar with my Bloggin’ Mamas brand. Under it, I have a network of over 2000 mom, parenting & lifestyle bloggers throughout the US & Canada. Based on my own experience of being a blogger & a business owner, I added a service to my agency that works with brands and business owners to create what I call a Mama’ Bassador program custom to the brand’s needs. These programs ensure that the relationship between the bloggers and brands is mutually beneficial and fair. If you would like to work with me either as a brand or a blogger, send me an e-mail to heather (at) heatherlopezenterprises (dot) com
Are you a business owner or brand rep? Do you have more questions? If you have run a campaign, tell me your experience with it. If you are a blogger, have you been ambassador before? What is your opinion on these programs? Do you have any questions?