Daily Archives: April 16, 2013

Ambassador-Building: A Lot Like Good Lessons from Grade School

Judy Baker - Flickr/CCSome of the guiding words essential to brand-building through social media channels are alot like the lessons  of good citizenship from grade school. Listening. Sharing. Liking.  Befriending. Connecting. Recognition. Reciprocity.

Not only are these wise words to remember, they are the motives, behaviors, and communication styles that can lead  your efforts to create, grow, intensify and maintain positive feelings of the community members and consumers of your company, product, or brand.

Don’t worry; you likely won’t have to do the work alone.

You can attract a cadre of others who are apt to be quite willing to help. These are the brand ambassadors, product fans and company advocates you can influence and attract through social channels to help you achieve this important task.

The authors of this week’s readings hold similar viewpoints about how to create an ambassador program. There are endless ideas and tactics that can be used, but the motions, emotions,  communications and community-building recommended by this week’s #CmgrClass authors are pretty consistent.



Buzzing Communities” author Richard Millington advises taking a page from the “time-tested” advice of Dale Carnegie, who advised that you can influence others by showing genuine interest in them,  making others feel important, admitting mistakes, appealing to noble motives, and by not criticizing or complaining.

Mack Collier suggests that you plan to start small and grow your ambassador group gradually by creating some exclusivity; connecting ambassadors to one another; compensating them in meaningful ways; providing direct access to the brand; permitting ambassadors some ownership; and empowering these friends and fans with some tools and resources to help them promote your brand.

Community-builder  Britt Michaelian says that brand marketing today is no longer about promoting; “ it is about people and more specifically: connection.” Britt cites as especially important the ability of brands to strategically reach out and build relationships with their audiences.

There is an excellent new example of real genius in ambassador-building on social channels right now, in my view.

The Following/FOX

The Following/FOX

The new TV show, “The Following,” has all the standard social accounts, but it is the innovative way they are using them, and the unique, engaging ideas they employ for providing super-inclusive methods for fans to connect that catches my eye. They do this before, during, and after the show in superb examples of  ambassador program best practices. Here’s why:

  • The “Show” account tweets hints about the upcoming episode’s twist—peaking advance viewing interest (fan involvement and allowing us “inside the tent.”)
  • The show’s “dark character” also has a Twitter account and will even follow you (Eeeek!)
  • After-show recaps are posted on Facebook and the website, with video clips in case you missed some moments.
  • The site offers “sneak peeks” video clips of upcoming episodes.
  • There are short videos with show writers and producers that provide ambassadors and fans with direct access to the upper echelon  of the brand –  both compensation and gratification.
  • From the get-go, fan groups (much like Lady Gaga’s highly successful insider group, “Little Monsters,” are being built through in-episode activities that offer “insider” treatments, such as specially-fed content and episode stickers. These serve to connect viewers directly to the product and brand.
  • Encouraging insider participation and inter-active “ambassadoring” by asking viewers to take and submit pictures of the shock on their faces as they watched the horror-of-the-week for that week’s show. The fan shots were then posted on Twitter and Facebook during the episode. The immediacy provided recognition and instant fan payback. An upload tool (tumblr) was provided as the resource. ( In follow-up, the website’s “photo booth” upload function  also provided a lasting and visible ambassador connection.
  • A “shock cam” section is hosted on the site, consisting of viewer-submitted content curated (connecting fans/ambassadors to see and connect with one another visually and socially).
  • A blog that lets you further become connected to other frans is an  “inside story”blog. It provides detailed backstories and other information about the storyline and the characters’ backgrounds as a tumblr.

The evidence of the program’s success has been visible week to week, as followers, likes, and other metrics expanded by leaps and bounds.

Pictured below is another great brand whose ambassadors and fans have been playing out the story, support, and connections as ambassadors to the world, all this week, in live-action fashion as the Final Four has advanced. Otto’s Army  and SU fans  are a great example of sustained brand -building and good examples of the word “fan” (derivative of “fanatics.”)

Syracuse University

Syracuse University

Have you ever been and enthusiastic member of a brand-ambassador program?

What attracted you in the first place?

What keeps you there now?

What kinds of rewards and gratification do you get out of your affiliation?

Please let us now about your great experiences!


Becoming a Brand Ambassador: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Joining Hands

Image courtesy of adamr FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently read the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith is an executive coach and the book identifies twenty obstacles that successful people may face when they want to take their careers “to the next level.” As I was reviewing the literature on developing brand ambassadorship programs and building brand loyalty in communities, I was reminded of many of the admonitions from the book. It seems that building strong relationships in a community requires overcoming many of the same obstacles that Goldsmith’s executive clients must overcome to advance their careers.

An Excessive Need to be Me

Goldsmith identifies “an excessive need to be me” as one of the most difficult flaws to overcome. As people we have certain notions of ourselves that we cling to, resisting change, because think we’re being true to ourselves. Goldsmith points out that it’s not about us, its about what other people think of us. Similarly, Christopher Barger points out that one of the first hurdles that brands and potential brand ambassadors both need to do is to “get over themselves.” Brand managers need to realize that regardless of how mighty and powerful their brand is that they can’t build a strong relationship with potential brand ambassadors by attempting to coerce them into doing their bidding. Likewise, brand ambassadors need to realize that even if they’ve successfully built “large” communities that brand managers are used to dealing with much larger communities; consequently, brand ambassadors also need to bring a sense of humility to the table.

Making Destructive Comments

Making destructive comments, even if true, will not engender trust between two parties trying to build a relationship. Brand ambassadors need to be careful not to label the brand/brand manager as “stupid”, “shout” at the brand, or organize a group of vigilantes against the brand. Brands should be given the opportunity to fix mistakes without the brand manager and/or community “piling on”. Also, just because a brand manager disagrees with the brand ambassador over the best course of action to be taken, does not mean that the brand manager should be labeled as “not getting it” or “stupid”. Goldsmith counsels that destructive comments can be avoided by first asking yourself “Is it worth it?” and “Will this comment benefit anyone?” If the answer to either question is “no”, it is better to say (and post) nothing.

Not Listening

According to Goldsmith, “not listening” is a key flaw that sends messages to others that you’re rude and that you don’t care about them. Likewise, Barger and many others point out that failing to pay attention to what potential brand ambassadors write about and making inappropriate pitches to them does not communicate that you are “listening” to them. Brand managers also need to sincerely listen to criticism from brand ambassadors and take action when appropriate.

Failing to Express Gratitude

The easiest failure to overcome as identified by Goldsmith is the failure to express gratitude. He emphasizes how easy it is to say “thank you”, but how often people neglect to do this. Barger emphasizes that brand managers need to follow up meetings with potential brand ambassadors by reaching out to them and thanking them for their time and contributions. As he states “thank you goes a long way” (in building trust relationships).

It appears that the skills needed to build strong relationships with brand ambassadors and in brand communities overlap with many of the general skills needed to build face-to-face human relationships. What other examples of common relationship blunders have you experienced while attempting to develop brand ambassador or community relationships? How could these have been avoided?