Brand advocates may not social network

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While almost a quarter of all online adults are considered influential brand advocates, most of these consumers actually spend more time online researching and purchasing than spreading the word, according to a new report by JupiterResearch.

The new report entitled "Brand Advocates: Creating Rewarding Relationships" also found that brand advocates report a preference for mainstream media, rather than social media, when gathering information.

"Brand advocates are very active at consuming content, and tend to be early adopters and savvy with social media, though they aren't necessarily advocating in these places," said Emily Riley, analyst at JupiterResearch. "They really need to be asked by their friends to advocate for a brand."

According to the report, influential brand advocates are defined by their purchase behavior and high rate of online activity. More than two-thirds of brand advocates research and purchase products online, compared to the slightly over half of all online users who do so.

Because of these traits, Riley recommends that social marketers should focus on attracting this segment of the online population in ways to which they are more receptive. Value and reliability are the most important factors for brand advocates in making a purchase, so social marketers should target this group by aiding in their research activity, through product micro-sites or product previews, rather than with blogs and user-generated content.

In addition, Riley recommends that marketers pay attention to this issue when creating user-generated campaigns.

"There is a big difference between a consumer who avidly participates in user-generated media and one who really loves your product and knows what it is about," Riley added. "It is important to keep this in mind when designing social campaigns."

The emotional connection is also a way to engage the brand advocate. While brand advocacy works particularly well when there is passion around the product - as in entertainment, with people feeling strongly about movies, games and music and even about fashion, cars and consumer electronics - it can be difficult with consumer packaged goods.

"But if you tap into the issues that people care about, then you can get them to spread the message about the product," Riley added. "Creating a campaign that associates your brand with an environmental issue can get people to feel passionate about your product."

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