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How to Build a Brand Ambassador Program

The best definition I’ve ever come across for what a brand ambassador program is was given to me by one of the brand ambassadors I worked with, Nicholas Norfolk. In his own words, “A brand ambassador program is a program that recruits individuals to represent a brand. Brand ambassadors are an extension of the mission and values of the brand. The relationship between brand and ambassador are crucial to the success of the program. This is accomplished by promoting the brand and creating positive experiences for the ambassador and those the brand is trying to connect with and reach.” 

As Nicholas eludes to, a brand ambassador program is one way a brand can connect with their customers on a more personal level. Brand ambassadors can help personify the type of brand you want to be to your audience or customers. If you’re an athletic brand your brand ambassadors might be everyday athletes. If you’re an environmental brand your brand ambassadors might be people who have opted to make “green” choices in their lifestyle…you get the idea. As people increasingly turn to social media to influence their purchasing choices and seek out voices online that they trust to guide their opinions, brand ambassador programs have become a bigger priority in marketing. 

Key Objectives of a Brand Ambassador Program

The key objectives you are looking for your brand ambassadors to provide are:

Social Proof (education about your brand)
Backlinks on both social media and personal blogs or websites.
Create content about your brand. Content can be images, written word, podcasts, videos etc.
Reviews. Your brand needs reviews.

Influencers vs. Ambassadors: What’s the Difference?

Before we begin this journey, let’s talk marketing jargon. Brand Ambassadors and Influencers are often used interchangeably. Likewise, influencer marketing and brand ambassador programs are usually synonymous. I personally think influencer marketing is basically what you’re doing when you build a brand ambassador program but the difference is the players aren’t the same. It’s sort of like if you’re baking a cake and in one batch you use wheat flour and in another you use a gluten-free flour. The end result for both is cake but the ingredients were different. Some people like gluten free cake and some people don’t. Below are some key differences between brand ambassadors and influencers. 

Influencers vs Brand Ambassadors

Influencers

  • Have created a personal brand (usually involving a lot of their own time and money).
  • Typically have a large online following. As a brand you’ll want to make sure that their following is genuine. There are a lot of “influencers” out there that have purchased their following.
  • The content they create looks professional and/or has a unique spin. This could be images, videos etc.
  • True influencers usually have a media kit and more than likely have worked with brands before.
  • Charge a fee for working with brands. Understand social media best practices when it comes to promoting a brand and provide reporting. 

Brand Ambassador

  • Social media accounts reflect brand’s category but they don’t necessarily have a large following.
  • Might be unaccustomed to how they are supposed to promote a brand online and require some education on the matter. 
  • Don’t always expect a fee but will usually want something in return (this might be marketing swag, a link back to their website, free product etc. May require instruction on things such as backlinks and how to take good photographs, tag on social media etc.
  • Are passionate about your brand. 

Step 1: Finding Your Brand Ambassadors

The first step is to actually find your brand ambassadors. This step has come a long way since I first began doing this ten years ago. For starters, there now exists online services such as BuzzSumo, Mention.com etc. that help people find brand ambassadors. I’ve tried many of these services and personally never found one that I felt justified the cost (and some of them are VERY pricey). Here are the tactics I recommend using to finding your brand ambassadors.

1. Hashtag Search on Instagram.

Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform. In the search field of Instagram, type in hashtags that you think might be relevant to your brand. For example, if you are starting a new healthy food product, you might search the hashtags #instahealth, #fitness, #plantbased. Instagram will then show you how many people are posting about your topic and even suggest hashtags that might be more relevant.

Finding Your brand ambassador

Choose a hashtag that has a lot of mentions and then click on it. You will then see a bunch of images that hopefully have to do with the topic you chose. Choose images that are visually appealing and pull up the individual profiles of the people who posted it. You can then reach out to these people either via direct message. Sometimes people will list contact information and/or a website via their profile and you can reach them that way.

If you’re a bigger brand, you can also find brand ambassadors via Instagram through search and clicking on the “places” tab. For example, if you are Nike, you could type in the name of your store and view people that have tagged you via location. See the examples below:

Create a Brand Ambassador Landing Page

You can create a landing page asking people to apply to a brand ambassador program. Using the word “apply” seems to bring about more recruits as people love to feel like they are being chosen for something over others. (Hence, all the ridiculous loyalty programs with airlines. A list preferred anyone?)

There are some people out there that specifically search for brand ambassador programs. Having a landing page to outline your criteria helps those individuals not only find you but decide if they would be an appropriate fit for your brand. You can also do some online advertising and use your landing page as the click-through site people will land on.

Having a landing page also allows loyal customers who visit your website and are excited about your brand an easy outlet to get involved and spread the word.

If you’re a bigger company you may not want to do this as you will get A LOT of applicants and unfortunately, not all applicants are qualified. I’ve had to remove brand ambassador landing pages and close applications because we got so inundated with applicants.

Promote Your Brand via Email Subscribers

If you have and maintain email lists for your brand, you can promote your brand ambassador program in an email blast. These people are already familiar with your brand and those who feel strongly about it may heed the call to become your brand ambassador. Again, you’ll need a landing page to direct these people to with further information that outlines the brand ambassador criteria and any calls to action.

Step 2: Determine Your Value Proposition

Before you start recruiting your brand ambassadors, you will need to know what you’re asking them to do and what you will offer them. The biggest mistake I see in brand ambassador programs typically is made by more established brands, where they think they’re doing the brand ambassadors a favor by making them a brand ambassador. In order for a brand ambassador program to be effective, you need the brand ambassador to help create content, educate about your brand, link back to your brand, promote your brand in an organic way and leave reviews. All of those things require work on their part. It’s imperative you make them feel appreciated and compensated in some manner because it could quickly backfire on you otherwise.

Examples of Value Props

Here are some value propositions I’ve seen be used for brand ambassadors:
• Commission based (referral fee model)
• Monthly stipend
• Free product
• Free vouchers for brand (travel brands use this a lot)

Step 3: Outreach & Onboard

how to build a brand ambassador program

Now that you’ve found your brand ambassadors and value proposition, all you need to do is begin recruiting. Sounds easy, right?

Reaching out to your potential brand ambassadors, following-up and onboarding brand ambassadors requires a lot of logistics and a lot of back and forth communication.

There actually exists software to tackle this task because somewhere someone along the way thought, “there must be an easier way.” Having been in their position before, I understand the sentiment. The way I’ve managed this task is to use a spreadsheet. I’m a Google doc fan and I liked being able to update the document and have it be current for anyone else who might be working on the project. You can use project management software for this purpose as well. Project management software I frequently use is Teamwork and Box.

Keep track of who you reached out to, contact info, social media URLs, following, authority (if they have a website) and correspondence notes. I found it useful to have their physical addresses because I was often sending my brand ambassadors product.

Sample brand ambassador outreach template

Step 4: Build & Manage Your Community

This is truly the secret sauce of brand ambassador programs.

For an effective brand ambassador program to work, it really does help to build a community with your brand ambassadors. To build a thriving online community you need to be contributing helpful and relevant information to your brand ambassadors. This might be highlighting a fellow brand ambassador’s area of focus, posting opportunities, logistical info that everyone needs to know or just checking-in with everyone to see how they’re doing. The goal is to keep people engaged. There are a lot of online community platforms out there but currently the most popular are:

Conclusion

Building a brand ambassador program can be a lot of work but if executed correctly it can really help increase your brand awareness.

Again, the key objectives you are looking for your brand ambassadors to provide are:

• Social Proof (education about your brand)
• Backlinks on both social media and personal blogs or websites.
• Create content about your brand. Content can be images, written word, podcasts, videos etc.
• Reviews

Happy Marketing, Everyone!

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