Are Indian brands open to try brand advocacy yet?

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Sudarsan Rao, Co-Founder, and CEO, Socxo explains how brand or employee advocacy is still at an ‘Eh! What’s that’ stage in India and explores why.

Despite the fact, ‘Word of Mouth Marketing’ bottled as Advocacy is still a well-known, most emphasized and recommended approach on Social Media. And it isn’t about the Brands, but the people managing and marketing the Brands, who are still trying to figure it out. Nevertheless, Indian Brands are taking notice of the new buzz words of Social Selling, Employer Branding, Social Hiring, Personal Branding, Social PR etc, which are the key tenets of Brand Advocacy.

India, SE Asia, Middle East are still in the early stages of Brand Advocacy adoption, unlike, US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Australia which are in the second phase of Advocacy driven Marketing, and actively buying platforms/tools to execute and measure.

Besides, Digital Marketing Agencies are still busy dishing out their Email, Search and Paid Social Media services to Brands and yet to realize the potential Brand Advocacy offers.

Brand Advocacy – What is it?

For the uninitiated,

Brand Advocacy helps Companies to engage its ’employees, partners, customers and fans’ (Brand Advocates) and empower them to amplify Content through their personal social networks. Content shared by Employees are more trusted, drives organic reach, authentic conversations and quality lead conversions for the Brand on Social Media.

Brand or Employee Advocacy Marketing is a program-driven content marketing platform or app. In a nutshell, it is ‘InsideOut’ Content Marketing for Brands.

What’s the challenge in adoption by Indian Brands?

So far, Digital or Social Media Marketers had to focus only on the External Audience of the Brand (Followers, Target Groups, Account-Based Marketing etc) to drive their Campaign & Content.

However, Brand Advocacy demands Marketers to focus on the Internal Audience first (employees, partners, customers, community and fans), to engage and harness their Social Media networks to drive Content Amplification & Attribution.

And, that’s a tough cookie, which requires a different approach, thought and patience in program and execution. It also requires Marketers to engage internally with HR, Sales, Product and Digital Teams to drive and execute the Advocacy Program.

Brand Advocacy is a not a method for ‘short bursts of advertising on social media’ but it is a ‘continuous marketing program’ that requires curated, consistent and persistent content marketing to build Brand Trust, create Authentic Brand Interactions and Quality Lead Conversions, through the ‘Stakeholders of the Brand’ or ‘Brand Advocates’.

Earned Media Value in Marketing

Owned Media & Paid Media Marketing models have been cracked well, however, Earned Media in Marketing is yet to see its potential, which so far was a measure only used by PR / Corp Comm. And, Brand Advocacy derives the Free Earned Media Value, much needed by Brands and Marketers.

What Next for Brand Advocacy?

Over the past 12 months, we have seen some early adoption of Brand Advocacy driven by ‘out of box’ thinkers in Marketing, Digital & HR Teams.

Employees and Partners of these companies are primed on the value Advocacy offers them for their own Personal Branding, their Professional outreach on Social Media and the value for the Brand.

For sure, it is not only in the hands of the Marketers, but the Brand Advocates (employees, partners) have to play their part in driving Brand Advocacy results.

What needs to change to drive adoption of Brand Advocacy in Indian Brands?

Although Brand Advocacy is not entirely in the hands of Marketers to drive it, they have a significant influence on creating the content fuel and strategy of the Advocacy Program.

Brand Advocacy requires synergy between Marketing, HR, Sales, Product, Customer Success and Leadership teams.

But, until the Social Media Marketers try and checklist the following three options which keeps them busy, Brand Advocacy will take time to do its Home Run.

  • Strike One – Organic Reach & Followers

For sure, Marketers hatefully realize that Organic Reach of Content on their Social Media Brand Pages is almost Zero, but the ritual continues in posting content religiously every day with a prayer and a hope.

Marketers in the first avatar of Social Media, amassed ‘Followers’, some who came for the love of the Brand, some acquired by throwing marketing money and many fake followers driven by Bots.

  • Strike Two – Paid Marketing & The Audience

By now, the Social Media Tech giants realized that they are more than just a Tech Platform but actually a Media Platform.

In the garb of cleaning up the noise of Brand & News Feeds to Users, the Social Media giants monetized the ‘method of content reach’.

They simply cut off the Organic Reach Thread and forced Marketers to bid and pay to reach their Followers and Target Audience.

Besides, there lure to target a larger quantity audience through Paid Marketing ((which is called ‘marketing on steroids’ to boost content), sucked the Marketers deep into the abyss.

  • Strike Three – Peddling with Influencers

Simple, Marketers find Social Media platforms as the new Digital Billboard to dump their Ads and get more Eyeballs.

And there is no better way to do it than engaging the so-called Celebrity Influencers to flash their Campaigns to their un-assuming and amassed Followers (most of whom are either bought or bots).

Post Cambridge Analytica, the clean-up act on Fake Followers, Fake News still persists and channels have been removing vanity metrics, but the lure of follower volumes continues in Influencer Marketing. 

When the adrenaline is high on Paid & Influencer Marketing in India, any disruption like Brand Advocacy will take its time to find its place in the mind of Brand Marketers.

This too shall pass and remain in obscurity when Brands realize that the Fizz lasts only a while. And, around the curve, Brand Advocacy is waiting for its turn to go for the Home Run in India.

The article is authored by Sudarsan Rao, Co-Founder, and CEO, Socxo. 

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