Move over influencer marketing: ambassador programs are the new kid on the block


Sarah Hawk isn’t sure marketers are getting influencer marketing right, and has eight ways to implement a strong ambassador program.

Everyone’s talking about influencer marketing these days. It might be the coolest kid on the block, but it’s not necessarily the smartest.

Why? Because it lacks credibility. At the end of the day, we’re human, and people like authenticity.

Marketers have always sought that Holy Grail of targeted exposure to the right audience. When TV ads started fading to background noise (albeit loud) and when a third of us started using ad blockers, everyone was looking for the next hot thing – literally.

Enter influencer marketing.

It’s a new spin on something that online community managers have been doing for years – the ambassador program – and I’m not sure marketers are getting it right.

Brand ambassadors (or superusers, depending on the nature of the community) provide social proof that has power through its objectivity. Imagine if Kendall Jenner and her posse actually went to the Fyre Festival and got stranded with the other rich kids. We probably won’t start drinking Pepsi, but we’ll be a whole lot more likely to trust her next time she casually flaunts a product on Instagram.

That’s what ambassadors do. They amplify the voice of a brand by promoting things that they are truly invested in. Deploying a team of loyal community members who are passionate about your product to spread the word around their own networks gives you wide and authentic reach. There is a level of legitimacy and realness that influencer marketing lacks.

Organisations that successfully harness the power of ambassadors do so through a deep understanding of member motivation, careful recruitment, clear communication and strong relationships based on mutual respect.

Here’s how you get it right:


Get to the bottom of member motivation

The key to program success and longevity is identifying the right people for the role and making an effort to deeply understand their motivations. Start by deciding what your ideal ambassador looks like and then establish what motivates them. It will almost always be some form of access or recognition. If it’s the former, attract them with advance access to products before they go to market.

If it’s recognition that they’re after, offer a way to publicly display their connection to your brand, or to showcase their skills.


Align member success with the organisation’s objectives

Smart programs align the ambassadors’ primary motivations with the company’s main objective. Take Hootsuite for example. Their ambassadors are becoming  better at social media while advocating for the brand at HootUps.

The relationship is symbiotic and intrinsically motivating.


Work hard to maintain relationships

Ambassador programs are built around strong, trust based, mutually beneficial relationships. The ones that go the distance tend to be affiliated with community-centric brands. Choose a program manager that cares about the community and takes a personal approach. People will work hard for you if they like you and they want you to succeed.


Build trust and investment

Clearly communicate the program objectives, guidelines and expectations to your ambassadors. You want them to be proud and vocal about your program, not just your brand. To achieve that you need them to feel invested, connected and in control.


Establish ongoing communication

Have open lines of communication and regular checkins. As well as supporting the health of the community and keeping members connected, regular communication means that you can keep tabs on behaviour, ensure that the brand messaging is on point, and get a jump on potential problems before they happen.


Promote your program

If people don’t know about your program a large part of the value is lost. External promotion (outside of your wider community) will ensure that members driven by status will have that motivation satisfied. Internal promotion (within the community) will afford you the ability to build a rich potential member pool from which to recruit as you scale or manage attrition.


Have processes in place to measure success

Start tracking metrics before you launch in order to demonstrate value that can be attributed directly to your program. If the desired behaviour was occurring prior to launch you need to be able to demonstrate that the program drove effective growth in those areas.


Have a clear value proposition

Successful programs can clearly demonstrate their value to both the organisation and the wider audience.

If you can’t sell the benefits to the organisation you won’t have the support of stakeholders. If you can’t demonstrate the value of membership to your ambassadors, they won’t stick around.

This article first appeared in

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About Author

Sarah Hawk

Sarah Hawk is head of community at UK based community consultancy FeverBee. She will be speaking at Swarm.

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