What turns an influencer into a brand ambassador?
One answer you might be hearing more often is, “A big ol’ wad of cash.”
But while it’s true that B2B influencers want to get paid (don’t we all?), there’s an enthusiasm and authenticity that money alone can’t buy. And once you have a group of true brand ambassadors on board, you’ve got something wonderful that your competition can’t duplicate.
At the heart of it, creating brand ambassadors means pulling your influencers into a purposeful community united in common interests and goals. It means making an ongoing effort to engage and delight these folks so they can engage and delight their audiences.
In our , we saw that marketers with ongoing influencer programs reported a higher degree of success than those with one-off campaigns. That’s the difference between hiring influencers and cultivating ambassadors.
Here’s how to create an ambassadorship for your brand.
1 — Identify your influential fans
The first step is to find the folks who have an engaged audience, are experts on their subject matter, and ideally are talking about your brand already (that part’s helpful but less essential).
Tools like Traackr and Meltwater can help you find people engaging on a particular topic or even directly mentioning your brand.
Don’t get too wrapped up in who has the highest follower counts — reach is an important part of the equation, but it’s not the only part. Look for:
- An engaged audience that shares and comments
- An engaged influencer who replies to comments and thanks people for shares
- A high degree of relevance to your brand’s area of expertise
Essentially, you’re looking for an influential conversation starter, not just someone broadcasting deep thoughts into the ether. It’s a good idea to look for up-and-coming talent, too: People who may not have built a big audience yet but have big ideas and could use a little promotion.
2 — Build a relationship
One thing all influencers have in common: They want their work to be seen and recognized. So the fastest way to build a relationship is to offer sincere and public praise for their work. And don’t stop at kind words: Share their content from your brand and individual social media accounts.
When you share, pull out a key point they’re making or a quote you especially admire. Let them know you’re actually reading their stuff, not just resharing blindly.
Once you’ve engaged a few times publicly, you can ask for a quick quote to go in a blog post or infographic. Something quick and easy: 50-100 words to answer a question that’s square in their wheelhouse.
This is where a lot of B2B influencer programs stop. But it’s the next two steps that turn an influencer into an ambassador.
3 — Make it official
Once you have established that someone meets your criteria for a brand ambassador, and you’ve worked with them on small projects, it’s time to take it to the next level. That means:
- A long-term plan for consistent engagement (at least 3 months)
- Agreement on deliverables & compensation
- Tight alignment on mission and goals
For example, you might sign the influencer to a quarter-long pilot program where you will give them early access to your solution’s beta builds in return for X number of social media posts about the experience.
While you’re executing that agreement, introduce your influencer to others who are working with the brand. Make them feel like they’re part of a community, with the opportunity to co-create content, bounce ideas off other thought leaders, and cross-promote their work.
The idea is to build a purposeful community of influencers who benefit from working with each other and with the brand. Look at what Adobe is doing with its program for inspiration.
4 — Keep the romance alive
Once your influencer is participating in discussions with a brand-affiliated group of fellow subject matter experts, you’re most of the way there. There’s just one more level-up: from long-term influencer to ambassador.
This stage is all about exceptional experiences. What can your brand offer that will delight your influencers? Think about ideas like:
- Thoughtful gifts. Are they into running? Get them some sporty headphones. Woodworking? A nice set of monogrammed chisels. Price is less important than demonstrating that you see the influencer as a person and care about delighting them.
- One-of-a-kind experiences. Bring them to in-person events like conferences, product launches or showcases. Give them an unforgettable VIP experience and you’ll not only get goodwill, but you’ll also get more social promotion as they post about the experience.
- Networking opportunities. Look for mutually beneficial introductions you can make, both within and outside of your organization.
- Advance peeks at cool stuff. Bring them behind the scenes for exclusive first looks at your latest product. If they’re already excited by the work your organization is doing, they will be thrilled to see what’s next and flattered to be one of the first to see it.
5 — Share the love
I absolutely love working with influencers the way our agency does it. Even when we’re paying influencers for specific deliverables, it never feels purely transactional. Every interaction is driven by mutual respect and enthusiasm. We like each other and are thrilled to be working together. The agency is helping these people succeed, and they’re helping us create killer content.
I’m not saying all B2B influencer marketing has to be a lovefest — but it’s a whole lot more fun for everyone involved if it is. If you follow the steps above, you can create a community of brand ambassadors who are genuinely motivated to share their great experiences with the brand, and to share their knowledge with your target audience.