If you are into the world of social media influencers, odds are you have probably heard one of them being called a brand ambassador. You might not be aware, however, of exactly what that term means. Or, you might have an idea of what a brand ambassador is, but you would like to know more about the ins and outs of the job — maybe you are even interested in becoming one.
If any of those seem like the kind of thing you are curious about, then look no further. Here is a brief look into what a brand ambassador is and the steps you can take to become one.
First Up: What Does It Mean To Be A Brand Ambassador?
The simplest description of a brand ambassador is someone who uses their platform, fame, and recognition as a means to increase brand awareness. To rephrase, ambassadors are advertisers and advocates for their brand, both online and offline, usually for an extended time. It is a bit like how you’ll see celebrities advocate for some products in a few commercials, though taken a few steps further and mostly hosted in the world of social media platforms.
Most brand ambassadors are social media influencers in some regard, but there is a difference between the two. You don’t necessarily have to be an influencer to become an ambassador, but it makes it much easier. If you have ever thought about becoming an influencer but you weren’t sure where to start, check out this streamlined guide.
What Separates a Brand Ambassador From Regular Advocates
Part of the problem with the more typical paid celebrity advocacy or short-term marketing campaigns is that they don’t feel genuine. It used to be that having a popular actor or star athlete go onto a TV commercial and say they like your brand was good enough. Now that millennials and younger generations are one of the biggest buying demographics, half-hearted efforts from celebrities don’t cut it.
Part of this is the fault of social media presence and increased media coverage in general. It’s getting harder for famous individuals to hide the fact that they don’t truly care about some of the products they are being paid to promote. Almost every case study backs up the suggestion that younger generations of consumers want the advocacy to feel genuine. Brand ambassador advocacy is over 90% more effective than direct advertising messaging by brands themselves.
That is the first and probably greatest difference between a brand ambassador and just any other paid spokesperson. Ambassadors believe in the things they are promoting. Often, potential ambassadors will have already been spreading the good word about the brands they were asked to represent by word-of-mouth. Brands more often than not won’t even give ambassadors strict guidelines on how to promote their products, since there is an expectation the ambassador won’t need coaxing to promote the brand and will be using their voice to add to the authenticity.
Why Even Have Brand Ambassadors?
Ignoring the fact that they tend to be more effective at promoting brands than normal spokespersons, there are a ton of reasons why brands have started embracing ambassadors as the future of influencer marketing.
Ambassadors, like other social media influencers, typically have a niche that attracts specific kinds of consumers to them. For brands, this means that ambassadors come with their audience, and there are often a ton of metrics that can be used to calculate how likely someone’s followers are to enact on the partnership. Furthermore, the fact that there are often defined niches for these influencers means that brands can send their message directly to their target audience.
Social media presence is only a part of the deal as well. Like the paid brand advocates, ambassadors will often be asked to give testimonials and referrals to their followers and regular associates. If the person in question happens to be a particularly successful brand ambassador, they might be asked to speak at panels or headlines booths at trade shows. When new products are launched, brand ambassadors are some of the first people to get their hands on them to help build hype for the upcoming release.
Speaking purely as a business transaction, ambassadors make way more sense than other marketing strategies. The relationships between a brand and an ambassador tend to be long-term, meaning they have time to grow accustomed to one another, develop strong communication, and so on. This is good for the ambassadors because it provides a sense of security over a long-term partnership, and brand marketers benefit in that it is usually more cost-effective to hire one ambassador for years than it is to keep hiring new people every few weeks.
Some Expectations of an Ambassador
To be considered an ambassador, you almost always had to have already been speaking highly of the brand before ever being approached by them. Often, you are already a loyal customer of the product you plan on promoting. In a sense, you are already doing word-of-mouth marketing for the brands before you have any expectations of being paid for it.
A good example of this is The Unexpectables; the members of this D&D podcast sang the praises of a particular brand of dice constantly, even though they were not sponsored, and often joked about how they never would be. They continued this to the point that their fans bombarded the brand, insisting that they officially sponsor the show, and eventually the brand extended them an actual offer.
Note, this is not necessarily a good idea of what an ambassador is, but the kind of thing you should be doing if you expect to become an ambassador.
A further thing to be aware of is that brand ambassadors often have strict non-competition guidelines in their contracts. This is not necessarily a huge deal most of the time, since most people don’t have two competing brands they are devoted and expressive fans of. Still, the expectation tends to be that an ambassador cannot be seen in public while portraying a competing brand in a positive light, which can be a bit stressful.
The trade-off for this is that ambassadors will sometimes get provided free products from their brands. It is probably the perk aspiring ambassadors are excited about the most. Though be aware that every brand ambassador program is different, so some brands might wait until you have proven yourself before providing you with products, and some may never give you the product at all.
While an ambassador’s expressed goal is to improve brand awareness, there is also a sort of unspoken rule that they are to bring on new customers to the brand. How exactly they convince people to start buying the products of their affiliate brand is up to them; one of the unique features of this kind of social media marketing is that the ambassador gets to use their voice and promotion style. Of course, so long as they portray it as an overall positive experience.
Some brand advocates are fine with using sponsored hashtags and create a reasonable buzz that way. Others might not have the raw outreach and engagement rate for that to be super reliable, so they have to take a more active role, such as showcasing products and putting together promotional material. A common way to do this is to film some sort of stunt or make a big appearance somewhere while sporting the brand prominently — that way most of the heavy lifting is done by other media sources and the products become recognizable purely by association.
How Does Someone Become a Brand Ambassador?
As mentioned previously, you don’t necessarily have to be an influencer to become a brand ambassador, but it can help. You firstly just have to have some kind of notoriety. This can mean being an influencer, a prominent athlete, a popular actor, or a respected expert in a field. Second, this notoriety needs to generate a large fan base that respects your opinions. Third, you usually need some kind of platform, which these days, is usually some kind of social media site, but you could also be a blogger or a Twitch streamer.
It is next to impossible to become a brand ambassador if you don’t give brands a reason to believe that a large number of people will care about your opinion. It so happens that most social media influencers happen to be in a sort of sweet spot that makes them ideal for the kind of work brand ambassadors do. For one, they are big enough that brands can feel confident bringing them on to promote their products, but not so big that it runs into the issue again of celebrity endorsement that doesn’t feel genuine. Besides that, having huge celebrities sponsor products has been shown to have a lower return on investment than small-to-mid-sized influencers.
Therefore, the first thing you should do if you want to become a brand ambassador is to build a platform for yourself. What kind of platform you want to make will be up to you, but keep in mind the key thing that makes ambassadors so special; you have to be genuine about it. Don’t commit to building a name for yourself on something that you don’t actually care about because you think that it might be easier to get a bigger following there.
Invariably, part of making a platform for yourself will involve figuring out your “identity” as an internet / public personality. Maybe you love cooking and want to help people learn to cook new things, maybe you are a model with a passion for physical fitness like Ana Cheri — a brand ambassador for Shredz — or maybe you are a photographer with a particular fondness for the outdoors. It might sound dumb, but this is an important part of the process that will help you out later on.
As mentioned previously, most influencers and therefore brand ambassadors tend to have a specific niche. This helps them market not only themselves but other products to a potential audience. Whatever niche you end up fitting into — fashion, gardening, gaming — will have a big impact on the kinds of things you’ll be able to become an ambassador for. It would be weird if a yoga and meditation lifestyle influencer was asked to team up with a brand of outdoor wear unless they have a big emphasis on the outdoors in their content.
Setting Your Sights on Brands
While you are building up an audience, something you can be thinking about is any specific brands you like that you would like to be a spokesperson for. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with some initial ideas since ideally, you’d already have some brands in mind you enjoy using. If you can’t think of any, the best thing to do would be to do some research, try out a bunch of brands you are interested in, and find one that you’d be excited to be associated with.
If the identity you are building for yourself on your platform allows for it, the smart thing would be to find a few brands that you are interested in partnering with. The more shots you take, the more likely you’ll be to find a brand that wants to enter into a marketing campaign with you. Be careful though, if you start singing the praises of a dozen brands, you lose that genuine feeling that makes people great ambassadors. Also, don’t try to promote two brands that are direct competitors of each other — brands typically don’t want to work with someone that has spoken highly of competitors, so odds are you’ll just shut both of them off of potential partnerships.
When you feel like you have a decent list of non-competing brands that you enjoy and think would make sense as a collaboration with the identity you have built for your platform, the only thing you have to do from there is to start plugging the brands often and prominently. Use your outreach and word-of-mouth advertising to help boost the brand’s image. If all goes well, they’ll eventually get in contact with you about an official partnership.
Most people can only be the brand ambassador for one company at a time. Sometimes, if you are partnered with a particular brand long enough, you may not be able to ever be an ambassador for a different brand, even after your partnership with the main one ends. You just become too associated with that one product. In that sense, being a successful brand ambassador can be a blessing and a curse. So, choose your partnerships wisely — it may not always be wise to jump on the first reasonable-sounding deal you get.
Also, though this is a much lesser concern, it’s generally only possible to become a brand ambassador for certain kinds of brands. These are usually companies that appeal to millennial and younger generations, and brands that regularly using their different products makes a lot of sense. Energy drinks, clothing brands, cosmetics companies, etc. are fairly common types of brands that are looking for ambassadors. It doesn’t make much sense for someone to be an ambassador for a brand that emphasizes having one product for an extended period of time like mattresses or televisions.
Most aspiring ambassadors won’t be clamoring to be the face of these kinds of products anyway, but it’s an important thing to be aware of before you go raving to your followers about how much you like Dyson vacuum cleaners.
Also, if you find yourself in a position where you might have a brand to sponsor you, read any paperwork they give you thoroughly. It can be a drag and all the legalese might hurt your head, but there are usually a ton of rules to these kinds of partnerships, and the last thing you want to do is get terminated from a sweet brand ambassador program because you violated a rule you weren’t aware existed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
As big as some brands are, sometimes you’ll be in their blindspot. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will never partner with you, just that you may need extra help in making them aware of what a potentially amazing asset you would be.
Hopefully, along the way of you finding a fairly prominent platform for yourself, you’ll have made some connections with some other influencers. Who knows, maybe you made friends with someone who is already a brand ambassador. If these people can’t get you an in on the company they are partnered with, then they may be able to put you in touch with someone that can help out. Never underestimate the power of knowing a guy who knows a guy.
Also, if you are comfortable with it, don’t be afraid to ask your followers to help you get noticed by a particular brand. Tagging the brand on social media is a pretty common tactic. Some brands, when ordered online, will also have the option to fill in where you heard about their product from. This is the perfect place to have your fans type in your name — after enough people tell a brand they heard about them through you, most brands will find a way to reach out and find out more about you.