How (And Why) To Launch A Brand Ambassador Program In 2022

January 1, 2022
Influencer & Creator Marketing

TL;DR: using micro-influencers as brand ambassadors for your business in 2022 is one of the smartest marketing moves you can make. Need more convincing? Let me explain.

A brand ambassador is a person who promotes your brand to their individual networks and social media followers. These people are typically considered influencers.

Usually, brands offer their ambassadors a unique referral code that they give out to promote their brand. Then, when an ambassador’s code is used to make a purchase, the brand can reward them with a commission of the sale, free products, or exposure on their social media account.

These programs are very popular right now among brands with social media presences. But to understand why they’re effective, you have to understand more about the social media influencer landscape.

Social media influencers, and specifically Instagram influencers, have created a lot of buzz in online marketing over the past few years.

More times than not, when people hear the word “influencer”, the first thing that comes to mind is huge celebrities- like Kylie Jenner for example- who brands will pay as much as $1.2 million to make just one Instagram post promoting their products. For the every-day business or online brand, working with influencers of that size can be intimidating, overwhelming, and simply unrealistic.

That’s where nano- and micro-influencers come in.

But before we get into that, let’s backtrack just in case that term is new to some of you. Here are some basic definitions:

What is an Instagram Influencer?

Influencers are Instagram users who have an established credibility and audience; who can persuade others by virtues like trustworthiness, relatability, or authenticity. Your brand’s influencers are users that promote your brand to their respective followers or networks.

What is a nano-influencer?

A nano-influencer is someone who has an audience less than 10,000 followers on a particular social media channel, usually mostly composed of their friends and families, classmates and co-workers, and other people they know.

What is a micro-influencer?

A micro-influencer is someone who has an audience within the follower range of 10,000 to about 100,000 followers on a particular social media channel, usually comprised of people who belong to a focused passion/interest, topic or niche market.

What is a macro-influencer?

A macro-influencer is someone who has an audience within the follower range of 100,000 to 1,000,000 followers on a particular social media channel. These influencers’ followings are usually comprised of consumers of various markets, with a bit wider range of interests and niches than a micro influencer.

What is a mega-influencer?

The mega influencers are the celebrities of the world- users with followings of over 1,000,000 on a particular social media channel. These influencers are usually well-known by a wide array of people from multiple markets, and their audiences have a diverse range of interests.

So, back to nano- and micro-influencers. On the surface, they are regular social media users – sharing pictures, videos and posts like the rest of us. Really, they’re just everyday people with something to say. Although the range goes up to 100,000, the majority of them probably have under 5,000 followers, and most times, they’re unlikely to even call or see themselves as influencers.

If you are a business-owner (which I assume you are if you’re reading this), you may be asking yourself, why should I invest in someone with a smaller following?

I’ll tell you why: because when they talk, people listen. They have personal relationships with the majority of their audiences, much unlike macro- and mega- influencers. Their followings most likely consist of friends, family, classmates, co-workers, or fellow community members. Their audiences are engaged, trusting, and willing to take advice. These influencers have the power to sell your products.

So, why should you use niche influencers (brand ambassadors) for your business? Here are 12 reasons:

1. More Bang for your Buck

First and foremost, nano- and micro-influencers are highly cost-effective. Their rates are significantly lower than users with bigger followings. Macro- and mega-influencers tend to charge very high fees for branded collaborations, and while they can deliver value, their fees are so high that it’s often not cost-effective or even doable for small businesses. On the other hand, nano- and micro-influencers most often don’t charge anything at all for a post. Especially since, as mentioned earlier, they don’t usually see themselves as influencers.

Think about it. If you can pay one top-tier influencer $10,000 for one post, or pay $10,000 to reach 200-1,000 smaller influencers’ audiences, which one sounds like you’re getting more bang for your buck? (hint: it’s the second one 😉)

2. The engagement is insane

While niche influencers cannot compete with their larger peers in terms of followers, brands should be more interested in engagement, which is where nano- and micro-influencers shine. Importance is shifting from reach and followers to engagement, so metrics like commenting, liking, and sharing are critical to consider when working with influencers.

Nano- and micro-influencers often have a high average engagement rate because their community is smaller and more interested in and focused/engaged with their content, and also because social media algorithms are typically not working against them. In any industry, an average engagement rate of 1-3% is generally pretty great, and is what you would typically see for a large influencer. However, more often than not, micro-influencers have an average engagement rate that is higher than the industry standard.

3. They’re usually the most informed

Smaller influencers are often the most informed within their niches. They are extremely exposed to the particular topics that they are interested in- such as streetwear fashion or pop music- and because they typically have a very engaged community of followers who rely on (and trust) their content, this works in the brand’s favor. They are believable and credible, because as mentioned above, they are usually everyday people sharing their passion, their personal recommendations, their everyday life and their likes and dislikes.

4. Content is king

If your influencer marketing goal is more focused on content creation, niche influencers are the way to go! As mentioned above, they are cost-effective, and although they might not have a huge following, they can- and usually do- create great content. Whether it’s written, imagery, video or multimedia content that you’re after, seek smaller influencers to get the job done on budget, without compromising on quality.

5. Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty!

Generally speaking, nano- and micro- influencers have a highly engaged, loyal following. Their audience is still growing, and at this point, it is made up of people they have met, people who have followed them from the beginning, people who generally love their content and people in their personal friends and family network. In contrast, macro and mega-influencers often have a lower average engagement rate, and their audiences are often de-sensitized to and less trusting of their brand promotions because they realize that they’re being paid big bucks to do them.

From another standpoint, niche influencers will also be loyal to you and your brand. They don’t see themselves as influencers, and they are aware that they are often seen by brands as way less valuable than the macro- and mega-influencers due to their smaller followings. Because of this, when your brand seeks them out- showing them that they are valuable to you, that you want them on your team, and that you think they are special- it will mean a lot to them, and they will grow a strong loyalty and gratitude to your brand.

6. They’re the best type of influencers for ground-up growth

Ground-up growth is when a business aims to reach as many people as possible, from multiple avenues, starting small and building up within each respective area. Nano- and micro- influencers are the perfect vessel for this. They are a huge help with brand awareness and exposure as they give you the ability to saturate a market with your brand and product. Additionally, a niche influencer focus ensures repetition, seeing as the market you are attempting to penetrate will be regularly exposed to your brand or product through multiple outlets- AKA your ambassadors.

7. Authenticity and being personable is crucial

What makes Instagram users more engaged with one influencer than another? Their personality, content aesthetic, authenticity, topic niche, tone, and most importantly, their tendency and ability to be personal with their audience. Nano and micro-influencers cherish their growing community, and are readily available to attend events, interact with followers, reply to comments, engage with their audience and have a strong presence both offline and online. On the other hand, high-profile influencers have an in-demand, celebrity status, which often prevents them from being as personal with their large audiences. For example, virtually no large influencer is going to take the time to reply to all 500+ of their Instagram comments and direct messages daily, but smaller influencers will almost always reply to their 22 comments and 13 DMs and may even build online friendships from it.

Another aspect of authenticity that niche influencers have going for them is that their audience trusts them. This is more uncommon when it comes to macro- and mega-influencers, seeing as they regularly work with a wide variety of brands and are known (and expected) to take on high-paying contracts for advertising collaborations, which decreases the genuineness of the recommendations they give.

8. They will go above and beyond for your brand

In my personal experience, this is my absolute favorite thing about working with smaller influencers. They are usually amazing to work with. They will go above and beyond to satisfy and impress the brand that is giving them the opportunity to shine. They want to feel a part of the team and be able to tell all their friends that they work with a real brand, and they even sometimes will take it upon themselves to work as hard on promoting you as one of your acutal employees would. This is amplified when combined with the special feeling they get when the brand values their work and shows it off by re-posting their picture or shouting them out on social media.

9. Easy to attain and approachable

I also find that smaller influencers are often more available (via email, direct message, etc.), they are more open to exploring out-of-the-box propositions, and you get to communicate better and build a better relationship with them because you’re talking directly to the influencer instead of a talent manager. Additionally, because smaller influencers feel like an average social media user/ordinary person (not a celebrity), they are more approachable. There is less drama, it’s an easier process overall, and they are more likely to really promote your brand because sharing on social media is part of their life – they are not just in it for the money. Not to mention, as you begin working with bigger influencers, contracts and talent/booking managers and more legalities come into play, which can complicate the entire process.

10. Traditional marketing and advertising isn’t on top anymore

I’m sure you know that traditional marketing and advertising, especially print marketing, is no longer the go-to approach when it comes to increasing brand awareness, driving product sales, generating positive PR and launching a new brand/product/service. Consumers increasingly consult social media and blogs when making purchase decisions. Whether it is a quick Google search, browsing the brand’s hashtag, or looking at online recommendations and reviews, the digital space is the first point of call for consumers searching for product and brand information.

So why is that important? Year after year, budgets and resources allocated to influencer marketing are increasing, because influencer marketing is a form of digital advertising that actually works. There is clear ROI potential. In fact, influencer marketing spending is projected to reach $15 BILLION by 2022. What does that have to do with micro-influencers? They are up-and-comers in the influencer space, and as a collective, they’re on their way to disrupting the accepted influencer space. That’s why you see so many brand ambassador programs with thousands of smaller influencers taking part all across social media, sharing the brands’ products under a specified hashtag, in hopes of being reposted and gaining popularity.

11. Social media users and digital consumers are increasingly savvy

As digital consumers become more savvy with Adblock software and technology, marketers are having to be more creative when it comes to reaching their target market. The solution is influencer marketing, because it is presented to consumers as editorial and advertorial, and is viewed authentically, rather than being forced upon consumers. Nano- and micro-influencers are the perfect vehicle to distribute marketing messages in a digital capacity, because 1) there are so many of them, 2) they are authentic, genuine and natural in their content and recommendations, and 3) they are not impacted by Adblock software, so there is nothing standing between the influencer content and consumers. There is true value in understanding the power and value of engagement in the influencer marketing space, and for the marketers that do, their influencer marketing campaigns (most often, brand ambassador programs) are better for it. By leveraging these smaller influencers in an influencer marketing strategy, any brand can create a winning formula for success.

12. You have more control of the process

When you work with larger influencers, they have more of a need to fit your message around their audience and their brand. Additionally, they usually work under strict contracts that and terms that are set by themselves and their booking or talent managers. Because of that, you lose some of the control. Smaller influencers are typically happy to spread your message in a positive way without too many changes to your desired format. They like your brand, and want to show it off to their friends and audiences.

So what now?

Another thing about niche influencers is the more you have, the better. That’s why so many brands are now using mass amounts of these niche influencers within the parameters of a “brand ambassador program”. So, now that you understand the pros of working with nano- and micro-influencers, you may be wondering how the programs of these brand ambassadors typically function.

Here is a run-down of how these brand ambassador program works:

Step 1: Brand Recruits Ambassadors

A brand puts out a message announcing that they’re searching for brand ambassadors. This messaging could be through social media direct messages or posts, emails, paid advertisements, even a landing page on their website. If using a paid ad or social media, they can even specifically target nano- and micro-influencers whose interests align with their brand image or product offering. The brand uses that announcement to direct interested parties to a program application.

Step 2: Brand Vets and Accepts Ambassadors

The interested person fills out the program application, and the brand accepts or declines the applicant based on the qualifications they have set for their program.

Step 3: Brand Equips the Ambassadors

If the applicant is accepted, the brand provides them with whatever perks are a part of welcoming the ambassador to their program. Typically, these perks include things like product discounts, free gifts, or even a social media shoutout. They also should inform the ambassador about the program and what is expected of them through a welcome email.

Step 4: Ambassadors Promote the Brand

The brand gives each ambassador a unique referral code to share with their friends, family, followers, etc. When this code is used on the brand’s site to make a purchase, the brand can easily trace it back to that particular ambassador, which means they are able to reward them with a small commission of the sale to thank them for their help in generating revenue for the brand.

Step 5: Brand Rewards the Ambassadors

The ambassador then works to promote their codes and earn commission. The brand keeps up with their commission and pays them their earnings.

Now everyone is happy – the brand gets more sales, and the influencer gets free items, commission, and/or social exposure. Yay!

You may now be wondering, what’s the catch? If it’s that simple and lucrative, why doesn’t EVERY business do it? The answer is, running a program like that can be difficult for some businesses. It takes time and resources to create individual codes, communicate with ambassadors, sort through applications, track code sales, and more.

Here’s where our “shameless plug” comes in — our product, Buzzbassador, automates all of this for you! Click on any of the linked items in the “What now?” list above to see how it works.

Shameless plugs aside, we hope you consider starting a brand ambassador program and leveraging the power of nano- and micro-influencers for your business if you aren’t already. And if you ever need any help managing it, you know where to find us!

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