Think about the last time you made a purchase. How did you find out about the product? Did you read the reviews prior to placing your order? More often than not, many of us base our purchase decisions off of recommendations we receive from a friend or crowd-sourced product reviews. Interestingly, a survey by Podium, reported that 93% of consumers say online reviews have an impact on their purchase decision. As a brand, harnessing a community of advocates should be part of your digital marketing strategy.

These advocates will leave reviews, post about your product, and share referral codes can increase sales, and increase your network. So, by now you’re thinking all of this sounds great, right? Building an online community of advocates takes time but you can start to create a network via user-generated content, brand ambassadors, and focusing on customer interactions.

1) User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is content created by consumers about a brand or product. In simpler terms, it’s when someone who uses your product, promotes it in a social post. It could be a photo, video, tweet, blog, Instagram, etc.. UGC typically gains higher engagement (more likes and comments) and is authentic, organic, and trusted by millennials more so than the content created by brands. In a study done by Olapic, 47% of millennials trust UGC, compared to only 25% of millennials that trust content created by brands. To incentivize your users to create content about your brand, consider hosting a contest on social media that requires a post about your brand in order to be entered to win.

2) Brand Ambassadors   

Identify users that are passionate about your brand, and consider inviting them to represent your brand as an ambassador or influencer. These advocates will spread positive messages about your brand, and may invite their network to try your product. Brand ambassadors are also key in generating content on social media. Provide each brand ambassador with a unique link to share out with friends in exchange for a discount or offer. Glossier has an extremely successful referral program, where users may share a unique link for 20 percent off product with friends via email, Facebook, or Twitter. The customer gains $10 in credit for each person who uses their unique discount code when making a purchase.

3) Create a Community for Customer Interaction

Build a community online for customers to interact with each other to further encourage engagement with your brand. Your consumer is likely going to be eager to share their experience with your brand with other like-minded users. This space for customer interaction could exist within a blog, forum, Facebook group, or LinkedIn group. By setting up a place for customers to interact and discuss your brand, you will be able to connect with advocates and encourage users to invite friends. Creating a community that fosters customer interactions is a very important part of building a network of advocates.

Once you’ve built your online community, it’s important to maintain engagement with your users. Use this community for feedback on your product and brand, ideas for improvement, and inspiration. Making your advocates feel involved and a part of a greater community is key. Reward your advocates with frequent offers, special promo codes, exclusive offerings, and express gratitude for their support. At the end of the day, your online community of advocates will become your greatest digital marketing asset.

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