The 5 (now 8) Most Common Advocacy Marketing Mistakes Brands Make (Updated June 2021)

5 Most Common Advocacy Marketing Mistakes

With thousands of successful advocacy marketing programs launched by brands of all sizes and industries, our amazing team of account managers knows a thing or two about successful advocacy marketing programs. Earlier this week, we sat down with our core team of senior account managers to identify some of the common advocacy marketing mistakes they see being made by brands.

One of the first steps on the road to success is to analyze what others have done before you. By looking at some of the common mistakes brands make with their advocacy marketing program, you can be a step ahead of the game, allowing you to reach a higher level of success in a shorter amount of time.

It’s been a few years since we wrote this original post. Since then, we’ve worked on hundreds of advocacy marketing programs. Here are a few more common mistakes we see brands and organizations make with their advocacy marketing efforts. All updates are in bold below. 

Common Advocacy Marketing Campaign Mistakes

1) Not Enough Focus on Recruitment

By far, the biggest mistake our account managers see their clients make is not focusing enough on recruitment efforts. Recruitment is the lifeblood of a successful program. Whether it’s a consumer-facing program or one built around your employees’ participation, you need to have advocates in the program to share your content if you want to see success.

Recruitment isn’t a one-time effort either. While focusing on recruitment at launch is a no-brainer (you need to build up your initial advocate audience), brands need to continually focus on recruitment throughout the life of the program. By having a constant recruitment effort, you can better ensure long-term program growth and account for advocate fatigue and drop off.

For even more great insights on how to drive recruitment, check out our blog post on the subject here.

How to Fix: Always be recruiting. Always.

2) Launching A Program with Too Many Prizes

Having a program incentive or two is a vital component for ensuring advocacy success. You want to make sure that you give your advocates a bit of a carrot while also letting them know that, as a brand, you appreciate every share, engagement, and email open they send your way.

However, too much of a good thing can backfire. Having too many prizes can handicap your advocacy efforts. Think about it this way: if you have too many prizes with multiple ways of winning them, you end up splitting your audiences’ efforts. You’re going to fragment your results.

Likewise, if you launch with 5 different prizes the first month, and then cut it down to 1 the next, you risk losing some of your advocacy that next month. You want to be sure you don’t recruit individuals that are just joining for the prizes as they are more fickle when it comes to self-selecting out of the program.

How to Fix: Keep your prize volume and worth consistent.

3) Not Creating and Sharing Fresh Content

Remember, your advocates aren’t post-sharing robots, they’re people. If you want to keep them engaged and sharing your content, you have to keep giving them reasons to share your content. Namely, give them interesting content that they know their friends and family will love!

You can’t expect your advocates to share the same blog post or brand video 10 times in a row – especially if they’ve already shared it with their friends and family.

Same goes with any images associated with your content (or in your post email). If you keep using the same image, two things will happen. One, advocates will see that it’s a repeat image and assume that they’ve already shared that content. Or two, they’ll realize that it’s different content, but won’t want to publish the same image back-to-back on their own feed.

Too much redundancy will kill your advocacy marketing efforts.

How to Fix: Keep your advocates engaged by offering a mix of content.

4) Posting at Infrequent or Random Intervals

The holy bible of advocacy marketing states, “Thou must publish content on a consistent basis!”

We recommend posting 2 to 3 times a week for most programs. Not only does posting on a consistent schedule help to maximize your program ROI (more content being shared and engaged with more often than if you post 1x a week), but it also helps get your advocates into the habit of sharing your content.

If you regularly go dark between posts, or pop-up every couple weeks at random, you run the risk of your audience losing interest in your program, or worse, forgetting what they’re supposed to do when they receive your advocacy emails.

How to Fix: Message your advocates on a consistent basis.

5) Making Your Program Too Complex

Keep it simple. When faced with complex instructions, most people choose to quit the task at hand. Remember, they’re the ones doing YOU the favor. If you want to achieve maximum success, you have to keep your requests clean, clear and simple.

Don’t make the mistake of asking too much from your advocates in a single email. Each email should contain a single call-to-action. If you have multiple tasks you want your advocates to complete, no problem! Just spread those tasks out over a few distinct messages.

It’s not just emailed requests that should be kept simple.

Of all the features of our SocialToaster platform, our Pic Challenges are one of the most popular. In a Pic Challenge, brands ask their advocates to publish specific types of pictures to their personal social media profiles (Instagram/Twitter). Usually a Pic Challenge involves the advocate modeling the product (or a brand value) and hash-tagging it with a specific brand-centric tag. Not only does the brand benefit from increased exposure and engagement, they also walk away with some amazing user-generated content!

Asking ambassadors to use a specific hashtag is fine, but the more complex you make your Pic Challenges, the fewer entries you’ll see. Case in point, if your Pic Challenge instructions look like this:

  • Post a picture every other Sunday
  • During the 5th full moon of the year
  • Holding one of our products shoulder height (but not eye height)
  • With 3 people in the picture and a fourth person just outside
  • While mouthing the lyrics to Side-to-Side by Arianna Grande

Don’t expect any entries.

How to Fix: Make sure your program asks are simple, clear, and concise.

6) Sticking to the Same Formula

As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But that was before endless scrolling, and multiple digital timelines existed. Sticking to the same formula for every campaign may seem easier on your end but is the fastest way to bore your advocates. Maintaining the same frequency is not the same as sticking to the same formula. If you’ve got a strict formula down like:

Gain Advocate + Send Them Swage → Wait for Them to Post → Repost

It’s ok to switch it up. Talk with your team to find out the best way to mix it up and keep your advocates engaged and intrigued.

How to Fix It:
Ok, so you’ve realized that your advocates are bored. Now what? Here are some ideas on how to fix the same formula dilemma:

  • Get Democratic
    Rather than tell your advocates what they’re going to get or how the program will work, ask them! Create fun polls that allow you and your advocates to decide and navigate how the new program is going to work.
  • Go Local
    Did you know that 80% of people make purchases within 20 miles of their home? If your brand has locally based locations, get involved with your community. From trash pickups to sponsored happy hours, there are lots of ways you can engage, connect and reward your advocates within your community.
  • Offer Extra Benefits
    When all else fails, offer extra benefits. From cash rewards to gift cards, giving your platinum star advocates some seriously brag-worthy benefits might cost you in the short-run but in the long run could guarantee you strong relationships and new advocates eager to climb the ranks.

7) Ignoring Your Employees

Did you know that your staff is some of your best advocates? 90% of employees are already on social media for their personal use, and 50% are already posting about their employers. Your employees can be some of your most significant drivers in regards to promoting your brand or business. Employee activism can be your best sales driver by allowing you access to eyes and audiences that may have otherwise ignored you. But what if your employees don’t want to join your program?

How to Fix It:

  • Make It Exciting
    Let’s be honest, work is, well, it’s work. There are many days where it isn’t exciting, and it can often be frustrating. However, an employee advocacy program should make work and sharing the ins and outs of work fun! From extra vacation days to random catered lunches, keep the rewards fresh and fun.
  • Make it A Competition
    While we normally wouldn’t advocate pitting your employees against each other, a little competition never hurt anyone. Creating tiered prizes for your top employee advocates can increase the fun and make things a little more fun.

8) Your Program Moves too Slowly

Good things come to those who wait, but they can’t wait forever! If you fail to show results quickly or demonstrate a momentum that indicates to your advocates that they can quickly earn prizes, they will lose interest. No one wants to jump through tons of hoops to earn small rewards. If you insist on a slow pace or extensive hoops, make sure the prizes match the efforts. Just be mindful that even then, your advocates may not want to play along.

How to Fix It:

  • Choose quick wins for your advocates to achieve, like points for sharing posts or taking brief surveys.
  • Surprise bonuses can create an immediate feeling of excitement and cements the idea that they can achieve success early in your advocacy program.
  • Host fun events locally for your advocates. Fun events can foster deeper connections and make your advocacy program way more exciting.

Have any more questions on what makes a successful advocacy marketing program? Reach out and let a senior SocialToaster Account Manager help guide your program to ROI greatness.

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