Published on Thursday, February 9, 2017
Mark Henshall, head of content for Qube Media, outlines the concept of advocate marketing and explains why he believes the travel industry needs to get to get on board.
"If you've ever read a positive hotel review from a friend, seen an excited tweet from a work colleague on a trip abroad or been impressed by a family member's Instgram feed on holiday, then you've entered the world of advocate marketing.
Advocate marketing simply means encouraging people who already like your brand (in travel, think destinations) to talk about you more, online or offline. These people could be customers, employees or people who aspire to your brand.
While influencer marketing is generally defined as people with large followings on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, advocates tend to have less followers and fans. This means harnessing advocates at scale - recruiting hundreds - is crucial to success. In many ways advocate marketing is the oldest form of marketing in the world - word-of-mouth marketing was around when we were still huddled around campfires.
What's changed recently is that instead of it being a slow, manual and unmanageable process, new technology is enabling travel brands to scale their advocate activity like never before and measure it.
Driving this change towards advocate marketing isn't just new tech platforms to help brands identify, recruit and manage hundreds of advocates, but the reduced effectiveness of traditional forms of advertising. Consumers are less passive than they once were and demand authentic brand interaction; the rise of ad blockers signifies how traditional advertising is struggling; and people trust other people more than brands themselves (what is sometimes called peer-to-peer influence).
Social media has accelerated these changes as advocates take to different platforms to share content. McKinsey states: "Marketing-inspired word of mouth now generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions."
Travel is a natural fit for advocate marketing as people tend to be very passionate about their holidays and will naturally talk online and offline about any great experiences they've had. Turning these advocates into 'superfans' is at the heart of advocate marketing.
In 2013, Air Mauritius had no social media presence at all. Fast-forward to 2017 and through a mix of advocate marketing and innovative user-generated content it now has more than 700K Facebook fans, more than 18k Twitter followers, and a very engaged community. With much smaller budgets than its competitors, advocate marketing has enabled this small, national airline to scale up its advocates rapidly - helping it transform its reputation and business impact.
Meanwhile, Constance Hotels has used advocate marketing to target specific events in the Indian Ocean where it wants to create a buzz over and above what any sponsors would usually expect. By recruiting advocates, this small army of fans has spread the word on events via social media in a more effective way than ever would have been possible by the brand alone.
Travel is beginning to wake up to advocate marketing and those brands that switch on their advocates have an opportunity to get an edge in a competitive market."
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