May 14, 2015
As community managers (CMs), we wear several hats in our Jive communities. Whether it's training new members, driving engagement, implementing governance standards, or gathering metrics to measure success - CMs have a lot on their plates. As one of the many Jive community managers here at Social Edge, I feel that building a strong advocacy program goes a long way to creating and growing an active, thriving community. What are advocates? Glad you asked!
Advocates are an essential part of any social business strategy and important participants in any pilot or beta launch. As the CM's eyes and ears to what is happening on the ground floor, the best advocates are strong allies that take the pulse of the community. Advocates provide CMs and senior leadership with insight around successful use cases, as well as any challenges that certain populations are encountering that may be hampering adoption. Advocates also act as a bridge between CMs and the community and are instrumental in offering guidance on launch tactics, engagement strategies and any governance issues.
An advocate can participate in multiple activities that support an active community. For an internal community or social intranet they help other users get to know the community and can do local trainings, i.e. brown bag lunches. Responding to questions or seeding content in the community are additional ways for advocates to work in tandem with community managers.
In an external or customer-facing community, advocates can converse with other users to give them an orientation tour around the community. They can also act as brand ambassadors to communicate any announcements on behalf of the company. As a reward for their services, advocates can get sneak peeks at new products as a beta tester and give feedback on new product initiatives. This ensures that the role of an advocate isn't all just for the benefit of the community; the advocate should benefit as well!
Who are advocates and how do you know them when you meet them? There's not just one type of advocate, but as a general rule you're looking for people who like to participate in social networks. They often are influencers in their company or a top customer. The best advocates are those that like to be involved: whether it's in company initiatives or in offering feedback - if they're vocal in their opinions and respectful of others, you've got a potential advocate. And remember to recruit them from all walks of life- don't write off a particular vertical or department as an advocate-free zone because you never know.
A healthy and vibrant advocate network is essential to a community's success, and actively engaging them both within the community and on a more personal level is key. So, meet with your advocates consistently and make sure to train them regularly; they are your first line of defense when there are changes to the community, so they need to be looped in on talking points. Make them your group of resident experts, and listen to their suggestions. Advocates that are invested in your community want to help it grow, so heed their words.
Finally - reward them for their hard work. Promote their successes and give them exposure within the community, and they'll be your community's biggest fans. Which is exactly what an advocate should be!