What Is a Brand Ambassador?

@Nina | Social, Strategy

As someone who blogged pretty heavily for over five years, and was very influential, prompting readers to try numerous products, foods, and television programs, I found the term brand ambassador fascinating.

If you spend any amount of tim

e online, you’re sure to have seen it. I decided to dig a little deeper and find out just what it is a brand ambassador does and if they’re truly beneficial to the brands they represent.

What is a brand ambassador exactly?

Depending on who you ask, a brand ambassador can be anyone from the part-time workers hired to stand in the mall wearing a company’s logo on their shirt, handing out literature and free samples to a consumer with a heavy social media presence and leverages that to promote a brand. One thing remains true: A brand ambassador is expected to represent your brand/product in a positive way.

Why a brand ambassador?

It all boils down to one word.

Influence.

It’s not enough that you say your product is the next best thing: the thing that tastes better, looks the best, goes the furthest, the thing that will make a person’s life better or easier. Of course you’d say that. People need to hear that from someone they trust. Someone whose opinion they value – someone like them.

Photo courtesy of Klout

And since we live in an age where everyone is tweeting, blogging, and Facebooking their every action, meal and thought, the people using social media most effectively, with the widest (most relevant) reach, well, they are who people are listening to.

Utilizing an influential blogger with a substantial social media preference could also prove to be a very inexpensive, yet effective, marketing strategy.

The chicken or the egg?

So, you’ve decided you want to employ a brand ambassador. Where do you begin? Do you want someone who is already familiar with or using your product? Or do you approach a social media heavy hitting influencer who might be getting to know your product for the first time? There are companies who offer a brand ambassador service, and they certainly seem to take a person’s social media reach into consideration.

But here’s why I wonder if it might not be better to seek out your own ambassador. Call me a romantic, but I like the idea of a company seeking out their biggest “fan” and offering them free products, advance access to upcoming products, and other incentives to do what they’re already doing: sharing their knowledge and love of your product with their friends, readers, fans, and followers. Consumers are savvy enough to figure out if the love and familiarity with the product came first or if their favorite blogger is suddenly shilling without cause.

If you’re already monitoring social media sites for mentions of your brand, you’re halfway there to finding a brand ambassador. Contrary to popular belief, consumers aren’t taking to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube solely to complain when a company gets it wrong. Sites like Foursquare, Yelp, and Foodspotting are based on the – completely correct – premise that people want to share the things they like. And not just share, they want to take pictures, post them, and brag about every time they visit or use the brand. When someone tags you on Twitter or Facebook with a positive remark, they want you to see it and would appreciate the acknowledgment.

What to look for

Relevant Influence – It’s not enough that a brand ambassador have a lot of followers or blog readers. They have to be the right audience. If your product or service caters to stay-at-home mothers, a blogger whose main audience is the college crowd might not be for you. Most often, you’ll find that successful bloggers have an audience that fall within their own demographics so this should be easy to avoid.

Actionable Influence – Their reach is not enough. Does your potential ambassador have the ability to drive action?

Effective Communication – This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. The majority of their influence will be through written communication. You may not be asking them to write the next great American novel, but you want to make sure they can string together coherent and grammatically correct sentences. Just like a consumer may be turned off by a salesperson’s appearance, they may immediately discount anything your ambassador has to say if they can’t understand them.

Socially Active – A social media presence behind the screen is great, but an effective brand ambassador also attends conferences and other social in-person events where your brand can shine. Say you have a brand of vodka. A food and beverage writer who also attends cocktail events may suit you better than one who just writes about cocktails.

Do you know any brand ambassadors who might be willing to share their experiences? Have you utilized a brand ambassador to promote your brand?

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