Many companies that are interested in creating a brand ambassador program want to see actual examples of companies that are running such programs. I’ve known about HootSuite’s brand ambassador program for a while, but on Sunday, one of its members Adel de Meyer joined #Blogchat and gave me a bit more information and then HootSuite chimed in so I wanted to share the background of the program with you.
One of the first things I do when working with a company that wants to launch a brand ambassador program is ask them to think about what’s in it for the company, and what’s in it for the brand ambassadors? Because if there isn’t a clear set of benefits for both the company and the ambassadors, the brand ambassador program is in trouble before it ever launches.
In HootSuite’s case, they are using their brand ambassador program as a way to expose more people to HootSuite. The idea is to take HootSuite’s existing passionate users and empower them to better promote the service to others and educate them on how to get started using HootSuite.
That’s what HootSuite gets. But what about its ambassadors? The ambassadors get perks that are only available to program members, such as swag, free access to HootSuite University, and a discount towards the Newhouse Advance Social Media Strategy Certificate. What I love about these perks is that thought has been given to who HootSuite’s ambassadors are, and how HootSuite can help them become better at what they do. HootSuite’s ambassadors not only love HootSuite, they are power social media users, or at least want to become better at using social media. So HootSuite offers education and discounts that focus on improving their social media skills. This goes above just helping them become better HootSuite users, it’s about helping them become better at using social media. HootSuite understands that many of its ambassadors are using social media at their jobs either for the companies they work for, or their own businesses. By giving these ambassadors a way to improve their social media skills, HootSuite is also giving them a way to become more productive and successful at work. And that’s a pretty big benefit!
Another aspect of this program that I love is that it has a strong offline component. HootSuite ambassadors are encouraged to host and participate in offline meetings with current and potential HootSuite brand ambassadors called HootUps! According to Adele there were 199 of these HootUps around the world in 2014. Offline meetings like this among current and potential ambassadors are so powerful, those of us that have met people online and then later met them offline at a conference or similar event know how powerful it is to take an online relationship offline. It’s a great idea to take people that are passionate about HootSuite and put them in the same space so they can interact. It’s also a great way for friendships to develop among those with similar interests; social media and HootSuite!
Finally, HootSuite encourages ambassadors to give them product feedback and then incorporates that feedback into new product features. Giving ambassadors a feedback mechanism is a vital component of any successful brand ambassador program. It’s so smart because HootSuite’s ambassadors are not only power users, but they are also regularly interacting with other power social media users that also have questions, ideas and even complaints about using HootSuite. The ambassadors can then take all this information back to HootSuite, which can then analyze it and use it to improve the product and experience for all HootSuite users, not just its ambassadors.
Here’s what I love about the HootSuite Brand Ambassador Program, and these are key components you should consider implementing into your own Brand Ambassador Program:
1 – Brand Ambassadors get special perks and recognition for being a part of the program. This is not only a way to reward involvement, it is a way for ambassadors to show how ‘cool’ they are. It’s important to make potential ambassadors feel like the program is something they should want to be a part of and something it is cool to be a part of. Now I will add that while the brand ambassadors should get special perks for being a member, at the same time there should be hurdles to involvement so that not just anyone can join. HootSuite seems to be pretty lax about letting in anyone that loves HootSuite and wants to help others. And to HootSuite’s credit the program has now grown to over 1,000 members. But I would guess that moving forward, HootSuite might look for ways to make it more difficult to join the program, since it becomes more difficult to scale at such higher numbers. Plus, if not everyone can get in, it makes it a bit more desirable to want to BE in the program!
2 – Strong offline component. Ambassadors are actively encouraged to participate in and organize offline meetups with current and potential ambassadors, or HootUps. This is a great way to not only expand the program’s membership, but it also builds tighter connections among existing members. Which makes their involvement in the program more enjoyable!
3 – A feedback mechanism. Always incorporate a way for ambassadors to give your brand feedback on the product or service as well as their interactions with other potential ambassadors and users. Additionally, HootSuite ambassadors get advance access to new and potential product features, which is not only another perk for ambassadors, but it also gives HootSuite a valuable way to test potential product features before pushing them live.
So if you are considering launching a brand ambassador program, take a close look at what HootSuite is doing. And for the record, they have given me zero compensation in any form for writing this post, I just love their program, the success it’s had, and wanted to share that with you. Here’s a post from HootSuite with more information on the brand ambassador program, and here’s a great writeup from one of its ambassadors, Adel, on her blog. If you want to apply to be a HootSuite Brand Ambassador, you can do that here.
Does your company have a brand ambassador program? Feel free to share it in the comments below!