So you’ve got an online business. Maybe it’s been up and running for a while or maybe it’s brand spankin’ new. Regardless, running your company is hard work. But did you know it’s possible to lighten your load by utilizing a (hopefully) abundant resource right at your fingertips? I’m talking about your brand advocates. Your biggest fans. The people who want to see you succeed.
There’s perhaps no bigger franchise attracting pop culture attention right now than Game of Thrones. And with season 5 of the phenomena having just started on April 12, I thought it might be fun to analyze fans of the show and what we can learn from them about the ins and outs of running a business.
But first, let’s talk a little bit about the crux of what this article will discuss: brand advocacy.
What is brand advocacy?
To be a bit pedantic, a brand advocate is someone who advocates for your brand or company. Duh, right? But to be even more specific, a brand advocate is actually someone who acts like a marketing rep for your company without recieving a paycheck. This is a person who spends his or her own time spreading the word about your brand just because they dig what you do.
Advocates might rave about your service, your products, or even an event you throw without the expectation of anything in return. They do it for the love, and in business, you can’t get a better deal than that.
Now that you have a sense of what brand advocacy is, we can spend some time going over the attributes Game of Thrones fans possess and how their advocate-like behavior relates to business operations.
Game of Thrones fans are…
Or committed. Or rabid. Or whatever fanatic-type of word you want to use. It’s this level of dedication that drives the GoT franchise. After all, if the fans weren’t devoted to tuning in week after week, and keeping up the momentum of speculation and suspense in between seasons, it never would have reached the heights it’s attained.
In business, having a dedicated team means the difference between a successfully run company and one that flounders. I’m talking about those behind the desk and the customers. Dedicated employees + dedicated customers = success, no matter how you slice it.
Loyalty is very similar to dedication, with a few key differences. Game of Thrones fans are loyal to their favorites Houses. Some gravitate to House Lannister. They’ll do anything to get ahead, after all. Others root for the perpetually “good” House Stark. And then some people are just really into dragons. Or ice zombies. The point here is that loyalty to a particular house is part of GoT fandom. But loyalty only goes so far. If a House suddenly goes off the deep end, fans will jump ship, too.
Similar loyalty can be found in the business realm. Your most loyal fans are your brand advocates. These people go out of their way to sing your praises and they should be celebrated within your company and encouraged. Outstanding supporters need to be rewarded through coupons, discounts, social media contests, and so forth. Fail to do this and you stand to lose a follower or two.
No, not in the substance-abusing sense of the word, but more so in the “I need to know what’s going to happen next” sort of way. Game of Thrones fans absolutely must know where the plot will take them next—mostly with regard to who’s next in line to kick the bucket.
That “need to know” feeling is difficult to instill in an audience, however it’s very useful once you do. That’s why it’s important to harness a similar feeling in your company’s audience and customers.
You want your social followers and customers alike to be with you every step of the way; to be interested when you make big announcements and to eat up everything you throw their way. Your biggest addicts and advocates are those you need to keep in your back pocket at all times, because, you see, advocates are also…
…willing to take action
This goes along with dedication and loyalty, but a willingness to take action has more to do with the way GoT fans rally behind the show and participate in its fandom. These people chat about the show on forums and across social media. I mean, who didn’t have something to say about the Red Wedding? Dedicated fans cosplay as their favorite characters at events like Comic-Con. They even write fan fiction! All of these things are ways fans express their love of the show. They turn a passive interest into an active pursuit.
The same can be said about advocates for your brand or company. These folks are so interested in what you do that they’ll go out of their way to be a member of your community. They’ll spend their precious time participating in contests you hold, tweeting about your brand with their friends, or sharing your latest photos on Facebook. Your biggest advocates speak out and take action on your behalf, which is pretty dang valuable.
Are you set to win the game of business?
Running a business requires a lot of you: you have to be a jack of all trades to do it right. But one thing you can’t do on your own is getting the word out. Even with a solid marketing team, you need to have a loyal group of advocates pounding the pavement for you.
And if you need an example of the best kind of advocate around, you need only glance toward Westeros—a young fan is waiting anxiously to find out what Daenerys will do with her dragons next and she doesn’t care who knows about her love of whispering valar morghulis under her breath. In fact, she insists you know. Maybe she even got you to watch an episode. And maybe you became a fan, too.
Advocates are powerful, whether they dream of ruling the Seven Kingdoms or not.