6 - Advocates and Evangelists
In the present chapter, the author means to include the perspective of the advocates themselves, by way of presenting research collected from bloggers, onine advocates, the ordinary "netizen" who occasionally advocates, and evangelists.
The author presents some insights gathered by sending a survey to 30 bloggers identified by a media firm as being influential. It was a collection of closed- and open-ended questions that probed their motivation to speak out about brands to their audiences.
- The first question asked if they had ever recommended a product that they did not personally like. 80% indicate they did not, and among the other 20% universally indicated they though their readers would like it even though they personally did not.
- About two-thirds felt it acceptable for firms to provide incentives for bloggers to advocate for their brands, and it was reasonable to accept compensation for promoting them. However, they also indicated that they would retain editorial control by accepting an incentive only if it is a product they were otherwise willing to endorse. In fact, all but three of the participants admitted being compensated for reviews.
- When asked about the ethics of accepting incentives, there were a few consistent answers. Primarily, they would insist on disclosing the arrangement. They would also expect to have complete editorial control in writing it themselves. And as before, they would decline if they did not genuinely like the product or feel it was useful to their audience.
- Their motivation to write positive reviews is generally motivated by positive personal experiences with brands. A telling quote: "If I personally like the product and brand, I will always recommend it. A lot of times I'll talk about a product I love and never have been offered an incentive in any way. I just like to talk about products I am passionate about." All but one respondent also indicated that the products must be aligned with their blog's content and the interests of their readers.
- The motivation to write negative reviews is similar, poor experiences, particularly when they feel that other sources of information (including the company) were misleading their audience into having a positive impression. This applies not only to the quality and usefulness of the product itself, but also to any interaction with the firm as well as the company's behavior in general.
- Aggressive for unprofessional conduct by the individual who approaches a blogger about writing a review is also cited as a reason to refuse to write one, to write a bad review, or merely to blog about the experience.
- Most would decline to write a review, one way or another, if they simply didn't like a product or had no personal experience with using it.
- Bloggers, in general, are guarded about their collective reputation - they all receive the same press releases and samples, and when they see another blogger simply putting out press releases, it diminishes the credibility of the community in general.
- The author notes the irony: most bloggers who had no qualms about accepting payment for writing a review also felt that the integrity of someone else who did so was automatically damaged. it is not unusual, psychologically speaking, that people forgive themselves more easily and justify behavior they would condemn in others.
The author interview a panel of people who work for media companies that promote advocacy (EN: Specifically, not the advocates themselves, though they look to be included in the following section, the point being that the content here is second-hand from people who have a financial interest in advocating in favor of advocacy.)
- The old adage that a satisfied customer tells three and a dissatisfied one tells ten does not hold. Considering that 87% of consumer reviews are positive, those figures are likely reversed.
- Across a broad range of products, the average rating on a 1 to 5 scale is 3.5
- Service reversals are often valuable. "The pissed-off guy whose problem was fixed" is your most emphatic and enthusiastic supporter in social media.
- One panelist suggests that 40-60% of customers will advocate if they are given the tools to do so.
- There's a note that firms may be reluctant to take feedback because they don't want negative publicity (it will still come out elsewhere) or fear that they will be unable to act on it (JetBlue handles this, as 99% of traveler complaints are something the airline can't fix, but can at least show sympathy).
- In terms of consumption, people like to hear news. A clever detractor can be entertaining, but people are repelled by those who are "always bitching" - positive news is more interesting to hear.
- Companies often mishandle advocates by failing to pay attention to them - they are generic in their approach, clearly indifferent to the person. If you take the time to learn something about a blogger, and demonstrate that you have done so, you generally get a positive response.
- Companies should dedicate someone to developing relationships with bloggers, rather than reaching out to them occasionally when you wish to use their voices. If there is an ongoing relationship, and a reciprocal one, bloggers will be more supportive and responsive.
- Another thing to keep in mind is that bloggers area not the same as journalists or media executives - they are enthusiasts who are writing and publishing in their spare time, as a labor of love and not a business endeavor. They will not cater to you or tolerate you in the same way an ad salesman will, and value their time more than your money.
- Getting slammed by a blogger is to be expected. When a company tolerates negative reviews, it signifies that they are not attempting to control opinion, and grants credibility to positive reviews. One bad review isn't a reason to be upset. When you get twenty, start worrying.
- One need that they see for the future is aggregating reviews, which are currently fragmented across many sites (a brand of toothpaste may have reviews on dozens of sites) and bringing them together
Netizen Brand Advocates
The author considers ordinary citizens of the Internet to be a different group than bloggers, who have their own reasons for advocating. (EN: I'm skipping notes or this section because it seems very badly done - the author makes some general observations, and does not actually seem to have any research behind any of it.)
The Evangelists' Perspective
Evangelists are different from advocates in that their activity to promote a brand is ongoing and they have no anticipation of receiving any compensation. They are self-proclaimed emissaries, who are motivated by the desire to share good news with others, and by doing so to bolster their esteem as experts in the community. The author sought out a few such individuals to investigate further:
- One evangelist for "spinning" (named for Spinner exercise bicycles) had great enthusiasm (the activity "helped me become a stronger person, both physically and spiritually") and wanted to promote it to others.
- Harley-Davidson has a similar cult following, in which riders feel strongly about the brand, purchase lots of logo merchandise, have the logo tattooed on themselves, etc. Riding a HD motorcycle "is who I am, not what I do."
- Another fan admired the Chanel brand since childhood, bought their cosmetics and accessories when she could afford it, and saved to purchase a Chanel dress for her 40th birthday. She is an advocate of the brand and a watchdog for imitators and knockoffs. Her sense is that Coco Chanel is a role model for women, and a Chanel purchase is a landmark that indicates she had gotten "to a certain point in life."
(EN: The author does no further extrapolation, but it seems that an "evangelist" has a level of enthusiasm that might qualify as a psychological defect. While companies may value their business and referrals, there's some question as to whether they may be damaging the brand by their very rabidity.)