Every time I have a bone to pick with a company, I sometimes get one person who will disagree with me and tell me that this company is not that bad; that I must have caught them at a bad time or talked to the wrong person. Sometimes, in an attempt to show me that this particular company is not that bad, they link me up to a person that I can talk to within these companies or when they can, help me out with the problem themselves. And you will be surprised at the number of potential brand advocates that Kenyan companies have especially online.
Brand Advocates are those people who will always come out to defend a brand whenever it comes under attack even though they have no affiliation whatsoever with the brand except as clients or former clients. Brand advocates are those people outside your company who answer questions posted about your company’s products or services. They are people who as clients or users have an intimate understanding of your products or services and who others online and offline have identified as the go-to resource persons. They are the people who in your absence in forums, chat rooms, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social network answer questions posted about your products. They are those people who have established themselves as authorities in your industry through their blogs and hence people seek their advice with regard to products and services in your industry.
As a business, you cannot be everywhere. Even with monitoring tools and a heavy online presence, you can only put a dent in response to mentions with regard to your industry or company both online and offline. Given many Kenyan businesses lack greatly when it comes to online monitoring of brand mentions, brand advocates become indispensable because they are the ones who without pay ensure that shit does not hit the fan when it comes to your brand. Brand advocates are therefore those people who are there for your brand in areas you would otherwise have not reached. And by understanding that you cannot be everywhere, have you as a business identified those who can be there on your behalf. Do you know who the influencers in your industry are?
You not only need to find who these influencers are in your Industry but you also need to reach out and empower them. I was watching Jeremiah Owyang’s keynote speech at #LeWeb in France when he pointed out the same. In his 2011 Social Business Forecast, he urged listeners to develop an unpaid army of advocates and pointed out what Microsoft has done with its MVP Program. He went on to say that Microsoft have 4000 MVP’s (Most Valuable Professionals) who are not given any type of money but are given access to trips, access to executives, access to products, and they go out there and answer questions from customers and they promote the Microsoft Brand. He finished by saying that this is the best option for corporations because it is scalable. Social Media is not scalable because you can never hire enough community managers to respond to your customers.
An army of Brand Advocates is not an alien concept. In fact, it is reminiscent of Business Clubs which are now present among many banks in Kenya where the members have business trips organized for them by the bank to various parts of the world where they get to learn from their counterparts across the globe. The same should also be done for brand advocates who have the following online to really scale your brand and products.
I think Kenyan companies are ready for this. I think there is enough traction online for Kenyan businesses to identify “MVP’s”, reach out to them, get them on board as brand advocates, and keep them informed…
Which Kenyan company do you know of that already does this? If none, who do you think will be the first? I am betting on Nokia, Safaricom, and maybe Samsung…