How to Get College Student Brand Ambassadors & Evangelists
One of the best ways to build long lasting loyalty with customers is to develop a compelling brand story and to tell it consistently.
Your content strategy should work to make sure your brand story and identity is well-defined and consistent across all your marketing communications. And brand ambassadors and evangelists will help you project that story even further.
Ambassadors and evangelists are people who hype up your brand to their social circles, whether that’s their followers online or friends and family — or both!
Getting these so-called influencers to back your product is super helpful, as 92% of people say they trust their friends’ recommendations more than any type of direct advertising.
Today’s college students, who are primarily part of the Gen Z demographic, are particularly engaged with online influencers, which is why any company looking to connect on campuses across America should be working to enlist both brand ambassadors and brand evangelists.
What is a Brand Ambassador?
A brand ambassador is someone who you can directly enlist to talk about your product or service to their large audience, similar to an influencer.
Social media is full of “micro-influencers” who leverage their niche following to endorse brands’ products, either for pay or in exchange for free goodies. A micro-influencer is usually someone with 2k-10k followers on social media.
A few thousand followers may not seem like a huge number when compared to Beyoncé’s 130 million. But if those 10,000 people are the exact demo you’re aiming for, then a small investment in a brand ambassador partnership could be worth it. Plus, none of us can afford Beyoncé.
On-campus marketing is a big part of how we connect brands to college students, and one tried and true way to make your story stick is through student brand ambassadors, which are particularly popular or influential students on any given campus.
There are a few reasons college student brand ambassadors are especially effective:
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of brand ambassadors, let’s look at what a brand evangelist is and how it differs from an ambassador.
What is a Brand Evangelist?
A brand evangelist is like the holy grail of marketing. This is a hardcore fan of your brand who spreads the gospel about your products or services regularly, and completely of their own volition.
Brand evangelists are the people making unboxing videos, sharing your posts on social media, commenting on and sharing your posts, and promoting your product on Twitter, Reddit, and other online forums.
One thing a brand evangelist is not is a celebrity or notable influencer — those types of people fall more squarely into the brand ambassador camp. Part of what makes an evangelist so powerful is the fact that they are just an everyday person, showing their audience that the only reason they’re so stoked about your brand is because they genuinely love it.
Simply put, brand evangelism is a powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s effective because it’s personal and exciting, totally free to you, and has the potential to go viral.
Since brand evangelists are less likely to have a huge following, you need a lot more of them to turn them into an effective marketing tool. So how do you get them?
Brand Ambassadors & Evangelists: How to Get Them
Combining a strategically employed cadre of ambassadors with an army of evangelists is the goal for any company intent on building a recognizable brand with a large and loyal customer base.
Enlisting brand ambassadors and evangelists requires two distinct approaches. With ambassadors, you’re identifying them and making first contact (in most cases), offering them the opportunity to become an ambassador for your brand.
How to Get Brand Ambassadors
1. Find Potential Ambassadors
- Identify influencers with large follower counts and a voice/style that matches your brand. Lexus probably won’t be hiring Steve-O anytime soon, but Red Bull just might.
- Start by looking at people who already engage with you on social media. It’s possible you already have fans who are influencers, making them much more likely to agree to an ambassador partnership.
- Another place to look is hashtags. When you search a hashtag relevant to your product, the posts with the highest engagement will show up first. This could provide you with some good ideas for potential ambassadors.
- If you’re looking for student ambassadors, you can search for people who attend the school in question or have tagged the school in popular posts.
- There are also tools for finding relevant influencers, including BuzzSumo, Upfluence, and TRIBE.
- Before you reach out to a potential ambassador, spend time becoming a fan through your brand account.
- Like their posts, comment on them, share them, and generally promote what they’re doing to your own followers. This will help break the ice and generate good will before you make your ask.
- A direct message or email is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.
- Let the influencer know how much you like what they do, refer to a post of theirs that you engaged with (like in the previous step), and mention that you’ve got a collaboration in mind and would like to know if they’re interested in hearing more about it.
4. Provide Value:
- Your ambassador is going to work much harder for you if you make it worth their time. This could be through simple payment, or by offering them free products before they’re released to the public.
- You could also give them access to company events and parties, or aid them in their content-creation process (gear upgrades, editing services, etc.).
- A general rule is to help them help you. Red Bull pulls this off on campuses across the country with their Red Bull U program, an online tool through which the brand can educate, communicate with, and inspire student brand ambassadors.
5. Kick Off Your Campaign:
- Now that your ambassadors are ready to rock, it’s time to roll out content.
- Ambassadors should be mixing product promotions into their natural content, using their own voice.
- How each ambassador does this is up to them — no matter the approach, they should be tagging your brand and providing links to your site.
6. Follow the Data
- Keep a close eye on the analytics for each of your influencers and each of their posts.
- The influencers driving the most traffic are keepers, but individual pieces of content may be much more effective than others.
- Work to identify the content and influencers that are helping you reach your goals of raising brand awareness, generating leads, and increasing conversions.
- You may have to be patient, but over time, with optimized content and finding the right influencers, you should see results in the form of increased sales. At the end of the day, it’s ROI that counts when it comes to ambassador programs.
How to Turn Customers Into Brand Evangelists
Evangelists develop naturally. These are customers who transform into passionate fans over time. However, there are things you can do to steer customers down the path towards superfan-dom.
1. Be Special
- A college student will only become a true brand evangelist if they sincerely believe that your product is hands-down better than your competition.
- Identify the aspects of your brand/product that make you totally unique and promote these hard!
- Maybe not everyone will love the things that make you special, but the people who do will love you all the more for your uniqueness.
- The thing that makes you special is exactly what people are going to talk about when they become a brand evangelist.
2. Provide Great Customer Service
- If a customer is going to convert into a brand evangelist, they first need to be blown away by your company’s customer service.
- If someone complains on Twitter about a late delivery, reply to them directly. Something broken? Offer a replacement ASAP with free shipping.
- Consistent, positive, and fast customer service will leave people wowed by the priority you place on each and every individual who gives you their business.
Pro tip: Investing in your employees’ wellbeing is extra helpful in ensuring they’ll treat your customers right. If your employees don’t adore your brand, it might be hard to get customers to!
3. Make Sharing Easy
- A customer probably isn’t going to realize that they’re becoming a brand evangelist.
- One of the first steps in the process is going to be engaging with your content online. Maybe it’s just a like on Instagram.
- But as they become more convinced of the awesomeness of your brand, they may be inclined to share your posts. If you make this easy to do, it’s all the more likely they will.
There are two ways to do this:
- Create compelling social media posts that people will want to share — a ridiculously cool video or a mind-blowing photo that will impress even people who are totally unaware of your brand is a good approach.
- Include “Share” icons in your non-social content (websites, blog, eBooks, tutorials, etc.) that allow people to quickly post it out onto their social media platform of choice.
4. Show Your Appreciation
- Keep an eye on evangelists who take it to the next level. People who are regularly touting how great your brand is deserve special recognition.
- Invite them to exclusive events, send them free products, or at the very least, say “thanks, you rock!” on their posts. Everyone loves being personally recognized, especially when it’s from a brand they admire.
Developing Brand Loyalty with College Students
Student ambassadors, influencers, and evangelists are all key to developing brand loyalty on college campuses.
One approach to igniting the energy of college students is to offer discounts. Nearly 70% of college students say they’re more loyal to companies who offer student-specific discounts.
Plus, 86% of them say they tell their friends about student discounts, which makes them all potential evangelists. Read more about the power of student discounts in fostering brand loyalty with college students »