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How to Capitalize on Social Media to Earn Brand Advocates

Author: Rebecca Miller, Smoothie King Chief Marketing Officer on: Mar 17, 2020

Influencer marketing has become all the rage in recent years, but there’s an even more valuable way for franchise brands to drum up business on social media – brand advocates.

A brand advocate is someone who elevates your brand through word-of-mouth marketing. Whether that comes in the form of leaving positive reviews online or referring customers to your restaurant, brand advocates’ praise for your product can help propel your brand to success.

And, because advocates are everyday people who love your product, their organic promotion of your brand is often more trusted among peers than other forms of marketing. Even better, it can cost close to nothing.

Earning brand advocates on social media is not always an easy feat, but here are a few strategies we use at Smoothie King to capitalize on different mediums to earn brand advocates:

Driving Meaningful Engagement from Brand Advocates

Even before the digital age, word-of-mouth marketing has been one of the most effective and trusted forms of advertising. Now, with the pervasiveness of the internet, personal recommendations have an even wider reach. Forty percent of the world’s 3 billion social media users leverage social platforms to tout their positive brand experiences.

In fact, brand advocates – everyday people who boast about your product or service to their own social network – often have even more influence than so-called influencers.

While 18 percent of people trust influencers, 92 percent trust brand advocates. That’s because brand advocates have a personal connection with everyone in their network, and unlike influencers with sponsored posts, brand advocates don’t have any financial motivation for highlighting your product.

Consistently Delight Guests In-Store and Online

If they can be more trusted than influencers – and don’t cost much (if anything) – why don’t more brands leverage brand advocates? Simply put, the quality and quantity of your brand advocates are only as good as the guest experience with your brand. For some restaurants, it’s difficult to create authentic, consistently positive experiences that foster a loyal base of raving fans.

If you’re committed to providing system-wide, above-and-beyond experiences that align with your mission, however, brand advocacy can naturally follow.

Your regular guests represent one of the most dependable, untapped markets to convert into your greatest advocates on social media. However, earning brand advocates requires a great deal of effort – both on and offline – to inspire people to become champions of your brand.

When it comes to restaurant franchise brands earning brand advocates on social media, the franchisor needs to take the lead by providing franchisees content that enables them to engage with fans. People become true advocates based on the experience they have in their local store. It’s up to every franchise owner and team members to deliver the brand promise to every guest day in and day out.

In addition to providing an unmatched product each time, this also means creating a memorable in-store experience at every location. At Smoothie King, that means staying true to our mission to provide better-for-you options for guests and become a part of every guest’s health and wellness journey.

By explaining each smoothie’s unique nutritional benefits, franchisees are able to customize smoothie recommendations to each guest’s unique goals and purpose – whether they’re looking for a midday treat, a pre-workout boost or satisfying meal replacement.

Taking the time to tailor each guest’s experience to help them reach their goals has been an integral part in converting our guests into raving brand advocates – and ensuring we live out our mission every day system-wide.

In addition to offering a personalized, meaningful in-store experience, for QSR brands like Smoothie King, ease, efficiency and convenience are paramount. Expedient operations have become more important than ever in delivering quality guest experiences for the on-the-go consumer. We have found new ways to constantly speed up ordering times and quickly move guests through the queue.

We use different technology – from tools that streamline operations, to mobile and online order forms and convenient drive-thrus for fast ordering – that maximize guests’ time and minimize the minutes they spend waiting in line.

Engage with Your Guests Wherever They Are

When it comes to engagement, it’s not about the social channel you leverage. It’s about interacting with the guest – wherever they are – in a relevant and meaningful way.

Positive and engaging in-store interactions drive strong guest experiences, enhance your overall image and foster widespread support for your restaurant and product. Still, guests that post about your brand online want to engage with you and receive some form of online acknowledgement for their post.

While each person is different, there are several common motivations behind brand advocacy that prompt people to organically post about a product or follow a company online. These include their desire to:

  • Express themselves individually and towards a community
  • Retrieve information about products, offers and events
  • Express one’s identity, reinforce individuality, share experiences
  • Have a noteworthy impact on brands

Although the psychology of social sharing may not seem particularly relevant, it’s important to understand what advocates hope to gain from posting online about a given product. This helps you create a more community-oriented online company presence, while positioning yourself as a friendly, approachable and receptive brand that understands and actively engages with audiences.

By recognizing and acknowledging advocates’ posts, you can also encourage additional organic posts, drive and optimize engagement and show guests their feedback is acknowledged and valued.

Interacting with these advocates can be as simple as reposting their content, tagging them in a post or commenting on their post or picture. Whenever guests check in at one of our locations or post about our smoothies, our corporate team always makes an effort to engage with the post by reposting, “liking” or commenting on it. We encourage local franchisees with an active social media presence to interact with guests as well.

As a franchisor, you can also launch different social media campaigns or contests that highlight different limited-time offers and incentivize active online engagement. For example, we encourage guests to make health-conscious choices while staying involved with our brand in-store and on social media with our Rule the Day™ campaign. As part of the challenge, guests swap one meal per day with a healthy meal replacement smoothie and are encouraged to post about it on social channels.

Not only does this contest help guests achieve their wellness goals, it also gives them the opportunity to receive exclusive discounts and enter for the chance to win different healthy lifestyle-inspired prizes.

While this contest largely takes place in-store and on our app, we constantly use social media channels and the #RuleTheDay hashtag to drive awareness, keep the contest top-of-mind for consumers and encourage them to participate and engage with our brand through multiple mediums.

Get Involved in Your Local Community

Staying true to brand mission, message and values is the most important tenet of a strong social advocacy program. Because integrity and authenticity are at the core of the Smoothie King brand, we work to develop authentic relationships with guests and local communities.

At the corporate level, we partner with different national philanthropic organizations that tie into our overall brand purpose, and we encourage franchisees to get involved with these brand-wide initiatives as well.

We also support franchisees giving back to local causes. By getting involved in their local community, franchisees can engage face-to-face with guests in a meaningful, authentic way – fostering local advocacy and a loyal guest following.

Authenticity as a Brand Drives Authentic Advocacy

You can’t force advocacy. You get there by inspiring guests and delivering exceptional experiences with your brand in-store, online and wherever your guests are.

Authenticity is at the heart of the power of brand advocacy, and that same level of authentic, real and everyday positive brand experiences will be the driving force behind your guests’ desire to advocate for your brand in-person and online.

No matter where you engage with guests, every interaction presents an opportunity to promote your brand values and foster advocacy at every level.