92% of respondents reported that a positive recommendation from a friend, family member, or someone they trust is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service.
Paul M. Rand, Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media to Build Your Brand and Your Business
Have you ever tried to use social media to share positive stories about your community?
If so, you’ll know that it’s difficult because of the time and discipline it requires to achieve sufficient reach and a frequency level capable of impacting your community’s image. So what can you do? You can be much more successful if you leverage the power of numbers and implement a Community Brand Ambassador program.
The principles of a Community Brand Ambassador program are founded in word-of-mouth marketing. You create a process that makes it easy for interested residents to become aware of and share positive stories about your community with their social networks. The drivers of this program will be the chat leaders (connectors) in your community. These are residents who love being the one to provide news to their contacts and are routinely doing so. You simply need to put them in contact with news and their passion for sharing will naturally take over.
But there are things you should know before you implement an Ambassador program for your community to ensure success.
The best approach to ensure you end up with something that lets you tell the positive news of your community is to:
- Think of your Ambassadors as a volunteer “sales force” for your community. Like any other sales force, they will need your attention and encouragement. That means you need to play the role of “sales manager” and take the time to not only share news, but also explain why the news item you are sharing is important.
- Create a special designation for your Ambassador program and establish criteria for participation so it has a level of exclusivity. The criteria could include a requirement to share at least one story a week. Ambassadors should also be required to register and share their email (and potentially home address) with you. The criteria doesn’t need to be overly stringent, but you to ensure Ambassadors are committed and have some “skin in the game”. You will also want to create a true relationship with your Ambassadors and that is hard to accomplish if you have too many.
- Create a password protected website (or page) to share positive news with your Ambassadors. This enhances the feeling of exclusivity for members and makes it easy for you to share both news and context.
- Give “sales direction” when you share news. By that I mean provide example tweets, email copy, LinkedIn discussion copy, FaceBook status copy, etc.. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for your community Ambassadors to take the news you provide and share it with their network. Ambassadors should be encouraged to use your examples and author their own. But, don’t be surprised if many simply copy and paste what you provide.
- Make it fun to be an Ambassador. Run contests to reward your most active Ambassadors. Provide peer recognition and help Ambassadors to become a community. If you have budget, send small gifts as a thank you for participation (e.g. Ambassador mouse pads, pens, coffee mugs, etc.).
- Provide your Ambassadors with feedback on how the program is going. People will increase their participation if they believe it is truly making a difference.
One of the great bonuses of an effective Ambassador program is that the news shared through social media is publicly discoverable. When you consider that 76% of the time a short list of communities is created for a site selection process without ever having talked to a local economic development professional, the value of having discoverable positive news can be priceless. It can serve as a balance to the discoverable negative news shared by traditional media (newspapers, television, radio).
Another bonus is your residents will become far more aware of what is going on in your community and that positive attitude can ultimately translate into support for initiatives aimed at making your community more competitive for capital investment.
One big watch-out – Always be truthful with the news you share. First, it is simply the right thing to do. Second, you are asking your Ambassadors to trust you. If you violate that trust you will lose your Ambassadors participation.
Now that you know how to create an effective Community Ambassador program, you’re ready to harness the power of social media to tell your community’s story. Done well, you should find that a loud and proud choir now backs your previously solo voice.
Leave a comment with your thoughts.
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