How To Leverage Brand Ambassadors To Grow Your App

February 10, 2017

No matter the complexity of your marketing strategy, the quality of the app, or the value of the idea – you will not be able to grow a large user base without social proof. You may have heard of widely popular apps like Yo and Houseparty, they’ve seen rapid growth mostly due to the social proof has come from the “invite friends” feature that they have built into the core of their app. People are very likely to download an app if they were invited by a friend.

But what if an “invite friends” feature isn’t relevant to your app? Well, the most effective way most startups are creating this social proof is by paying brand ambassadors to promote their app.

Brand ambassadors are people, typically college students, you can hire to “invite their friends” to use your app or product. Brand ambassadors are typically social people. Ideally, they have a large following both online and offline and are well respected by everyone in the following. Usually, brand ambassadors will be part time employees that are looking for a profitable side hustle.

After developing over 200 mobile apps, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to growing your app’s user base. If you can use them correctly, brand ambassadors just might be the missing piece in your growth strategy.

The Benefits Brand Ambassadors Provide

Before you start hiring any local college student to make your app the next Snapchat, you should first understand what benefits you’ll realistically be receiving from running a brand ambassador campaign. While every campaign outcome is specific to the app and the target audience, here are a few you could expect to see:

  • A “humanized” image of your brand and company
  • Word of mouth referrals (74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.)
  • Ability to personally reach and engage with your target audience/potential users
  • Valuable market feedback directly from your target audience
  • Social proof that other people are actually using your app
  • Insights and advice into further promotional tactics for your target audience

Yik Yak, a college social app, saw rapid user base growth in a very short period of time similar to that of facebook’s early days. What was their marketing strategy? Crash as many frat parties as possible. They hired a full team of college brand ambassadors, rented a big bus, and toured the country taking colleges by storm.

Set Your Goals

In order to run effective brand ambassador campaigns, it’s important to set clear objectives about what you want to get out of your campaign. This will allow you to track the effectiveness of your brand ambassadors, and decide if they are worth the money you are spending on them.

1. Drive more social media engagement and reach

Social media influence is one of the greatest assets your brand ambassadors can provide. Since social media advertising has become more and more competitive, it is increasingly difficult to engage consumers through channels like Facebook and Twitter. Similar to “banner blindness” in display advertising, consumers have created their own “filters” on what they consume on social media.

If you utilize brand ambassadors correctly, you can have them repost, retweet, or share your content on social media to their own followers. You will get much higher engagement rates through this than paying for people to see your post through ads.

CrewFire is a great way for you to measure, manage, and scale these campaigns. You can rank the effectiveness of each brand ambassador, and look at engagement statistics.

The biggest advantage of using CrewFire over managing these campaigns yourself is that it allows you to group your ambassadors based on their interests, and who they have influence over. For example, if one of them has a huge early adopter following and the other can influence mainstream consumers, you will get better results if you create two different posts for each of these ambassadors to share.

2. Increase awareness of your brand

When you’re first starting a business, brand awareness should be one of your primary focuses. It is much easier for someone to download your app or make a transaction if they have heard about you before. A great way to get this top of mind awareness through brand ambassadors is by leveraging network effects.

Network effects are the growth lever of many successful startups and apps. For example, if you tell a few friends about a cool new recipe video, and they really like it – they will tell a few of their friends. And if their circle of friends like the video, they will tell a few of their friends! If you can get this process to go on for a longer period of time – you’ll eventually hit the famous hockey stick inflection point.

3. Provide advice on effective guerrilla marketing campaigns

Guerrilla Marketing is defined by using unconventional marketing tactics that require spending time instead of money. This is a very important notion for startups because many (if not all) startups do not have the budget to spend tens of thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns. If you’re in the same boat, then guerrilla marketing should be another key part of your strategy.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a direct part of the community you plan on targeting, it’s difficult to figure out what these “unconventional tactics” should be. Ideally, your brand ambassadors will be an influential part of the community you’re trying to target and can give you great tactical advice on what kinds of campaigns would work best.

4. Ensure quality downloads and engagement

Another benefit of having “in-person” brand ambassadors, is you can almost guarantee that people engaging with your brand and downloading your app are real. Bots and click farms are a real problem for digital marketers, and a large portion of their ad budgets are often used up by fake people that would never actually use your app. With brand ambassadors, you can have peace of mind knowing that the people they talk to and the downloads you’ll receive are actually real.

Choose the Right Ambassadors

At this point, it should be safe to say that brand ambassadors can have a tremendous impact on your growth. But the actual success hinges on whether you pick the right ambassador. Many businesses focus entirely on the person’s social media presence, thinking that more followers = more downloads, however, just because that person has a huge online presence doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for the job. Here are the five top qualities you should be looking for when searching for the best ambassador.

1. Passion for Building Relationships

The best brand ambassadors are those that can help you build loyal relationships with your prospective customers. Consider them a hybrid between sales and customer support. Sales representatives ultimately want to get your customer to buy the product, but typically don’t create memorable relationships with them. Customer support representatives are able to make customers happy and give them a positive experience but are not there to sell the product. Brand ambassadors are the perfect mix of both positions.

When interviewing brand ambassadors, you can measure their ability to build relationships by their first interaction with you. If they are able to present themselves as someone you want to spend money on, and someone you would enjoy working with – they can do the same for your app.

2. Appealing to Your Target Audience

Another important aspect of any brand ambassador is their appeal to your audience. Startups will find more success if they can present themselves as relatable to their target audience. So if your brand ambassador can relate to your target audience’s goals, pains, and problems, they will be much more persuasive.

If your social media app is meant to connect college students with affordable personal trainers, you would want your brand ambassador to enjoy working out and have a healthy lifestyle. To find the best fit, research the type of influencer your audience already listens to. From there, you can find a brand ambassador who matches that influencer’s demographic, and the jobs they want to get done.

3. Established Social Media Following:

Social media presence is very important when hiring the right brand ambassadors because it’s the best medium to reach potential customers at scale. The two metrics you should use to gauge their social media influence is the number of followers, and the percent of those followers that engage (like, comment, share) with their posts. Many “influencers” find ways to forge their number of followers by paying for them, but there is no way to fake genuine engagement.

Who has more influence?

Influencer 1 | 20,000 followers, averages 10 retweets and 20 favorites per tweet

Influencer 2 | 5,000 followers, averages 8 retweets and 15 favorites per tweet

Answer: Influencer 2

The first influencer has more followers, gets more retweets, and more favorites than the second one, but it’s more important to notice that influencer 2 gets a retweet from 1/400 of their followers, and a favorite from 1/330. Influencer 1 gets a retweet from 1/2,000 of their followers and favorites from 1/1000. We can come to the conclusion that influencer two is likely to be more valuable than influencer one because people engage with their posts at a higher rate.

4. Passionate about your Vision

It’s a lot easier and more effective to sell something you’re passionate about than something you have no interest in. Ensuring that your ambassadors actually like your app or are passionate about the industry/niche is a must.

Have you ever loved a product so much that you recommended it to a friend or family, and they bought it themselves? And you wouldn’t think of that as “making a sale” because you genuinely thought the product would benefit the person you recommended it to. People can sell anything if they are truly excited about the product or idea, and your ambassador can drive these same real results if they are passionate about your idea.

5. Leadership Skills

Think of influential public figures that can persuade you to buy a product or service –  just because they recommend it. They may be experts and have more knowledge about that product than you, but expertise alone does not sell products. These people radiate confidence and show 100% certainty that what they are selling is the best product for you. You don’t follow their advice based on the facts they tell you, you follow their advice because you trust them. These are the types of people you want to represent your app.

BONUS 6. An Understanding of Marketing and/or Sales

The more your brand ambassadors know about marketing and/or sales the better! They don’t need to have a business degree, but having some knowledge about marketing and sales is a great “bonus” skill to look for. If that person has any experience with brand messaging or the importance of being genuine in sales, they should move to the top of your list.

Don’t Micromanage

The reason why brand ambassadors are so effective at marketing is because they humanize your brand and speak to your audience on a personal level. Make sure you aren’t limiting this crucial human element by over controlling them. Let your ambassadors try out new approaches or strategies, and even if they fail, they will learn from that experience and adapt.

With that being said, it’s important that you try to maximize the ROI you are getting from ambassadors, because after all – they are still working for you. Simple Crew offers a great platform for you to do all of this from your computer. Your ambassadors can upload screenshots of all of their social posts, flyers, and posters to a dashboard where you can fully visualize and manage their efforts. This allows you to track the effectiveness of individual ambassadors, and hold them accountable for the work they are doing. If you’re running large scale campaigns utilizing tools like Simple Crew will save you a lot of time.

Get to Work!

It’s not difficult to find brand ambassadors these days, there are job boards for almost every niche. If you’re trying to find college students you can either post on their individual college job boards, or you can use a platform like University Beyond to source them. University Beyond has thousands of college students looking to promote a brand that they believe in, so there is bound to be someone there for you. If you think brand ambassadors will benefit your startup and boost your marketing efforts, get to work!