In today’s marketing world we’re bombarded with automated solutions to help us meet our goals. For every objective we set there are ten platforms ready and waiting to assist. Ambassador Programs are no exception, and when vendors show you all their sparkles and bells and whistles it’s tempting to jump on board. But how do you know if you’re making the right decision? What do you look for when you’re shopping for a solution? In this article I’ll share three important guidelines to use when exploring Ambassador Program platforms. But first here are two important lessons I’ve learned.
- Beware of Sparkle Fever: even if you’re falling in love with a platform’s special effects and sparkly dashboards, don’t jump in without doing your homework
- Don’t be Stingy: before you balk at the cost of licensing a platform, understand its potential long-term savings
Here are the Three Important Guidelines
- Define your Ambassador Program Goals
- Understand the Platform’s Features and Functionality
- Determine your Current Internal Resources
Let’s look at how you can apply these guidelines to your own Ambassador Program.
Ambassador Program Goals
Before deciding whether a 3rd party automated platform is right for you, take a close look at your program goals. Do you want a cast of thousands amplifying your message across social? Do you want customer service or sales helpers? Do you want subject matter experts creating product or industry related content for the overall community? Do you want experts at your industry events? Do you want program members helping their local communities to use your products? Do you want thousands of online reviews?
If you want all of the above stop right there. Too many wants will dilute your program’s effectiveness. Focus on your most important goals and make sure they feed and support each other.
Features and Functionality
A 3rd party solution can look pretty, but if its capabilities don’t help you achieve your goals, it’s not going to work for you. Be sure you fully understand what the platform can and cannot do before signing on the dotted line. Let’s look at some of the necessary features and functionality you’ll need to achieve two potential goals.
Cast of Thousands:
If your goal is to activate a cast of thousands to amplify your message across social, using an automated platform could be an effective solution. Just make sure the platform can support it.
Here are some of the features and capabilities you’ll want to look out for:
- Easy access. Joining the platform and staying engaged needs to be simple
- Mobile. You know how widespread mobile usage is. Make sure the platform sparkles on all popular mobile devices. Include push notification to keep users engaged
- Curation. The platform should help you easily organize and present users with engaging content and activities
- Gamification. Keep users active by telling them how they rank. Encourage them to climb the ladder. Celebrate top performers
- Flexibility. Give advanced social media users easy options to customize content
- Segmentation. Not all users want the same content and activities. Make sure they can define their wants and that you can deliver content based on their preferences
- Tracking. The platform should track the KPIs you need, and show all activity from big picture trends down to individual user behavior. Story-telling dashboards are a must
- CRM. If you want to tie social sharing to customer behavior, be sure your platform can integrate with your CRM solutions
- Program Management. Be clear on roles. Does the platform provide program management? Or is it a self-serve model? Which do you need?
If you want to build ongoing relationships with stellar experts who can contribute at your industry events, beware of relying solely on automated tools. Social media monitoring platforms can help you find potential experts, but they shouldn’t be your silver bullet. Once you discover potential experts, it’s imperative that you reach out to them human to human and build relationships for the long term – not just a particular event.
That said, social monitoring tools can help you with initial research and discovery. There are many out there so be sure the tool’s features and functionality align with your goals.
Here are some of the features and capabilities you’ll want to look for:
- Large pool. Be sure the platform has access to a large pool of experts. The more you can choose from the easier it will be to identify the right people
- Targeted. The platform needs to pull up experts who align with your goals. If you’re running a photo product company you don’t want to see experts in the automotive industry
- Profiles Information. Each profile in your expert pool should be packed with relevant information. Job title, number of connections (i.e. followers, following), bio, social channels, social activity, geographical location, and relationships with other experts
- Accuracy. Test drive the tool to make sure it identifies relevant experts. If you’re looking for photo buffs you don’t want the tool to spit out a list of all active twitter users who have mentioned the word “photo”
- All you can eat. Be sure the pricing model doesn’t bite you. Ideally you want to pay a flat fee, independent of how many experts the tool helps you identify
Before chasing after shiny new objects, consider your company’s existing resources. In many cases your company already licenses social media tools that can support your goals. You just didn’t know about them! Conduct a little research to find out what’s already in place. Then decide whether or not that solution (or solutions) is relevant for your program.
You may also be asking a tool to perform a task that’s better done by a human. Do you really need a sparkly solution to build relationships with ten experts? Or would your program be better served with a little old fashioned Search?
If you decide (after thorough research) that you don’t have sparkle fever and that you really need this thing, go for it. And don’t be stingy. These tools can be expensive but they can also play a key role in your program’s success.
If you’re short on budget try pooling your resources. Reach out to other departments and go in on the license together. Recruiting multiple internal stakeholders to fund and use the tool means cost savings and consistency, a big win for your program and your company!
My Final 2 Cents
When considering an automated tool for your Ambassador Program, take a second to understand your attitude towards shiny new technology, and apply it to your process. If you are an early adopter, focus on thorough research before jumping to a decision. If you’re a late adopter, be open to how an automated tool could benefit your program.
Best of luck! I’m happy to answer questions and I welcome your 2 cents as well.