How Brand Ambassadors are Shifting the Landscape of Social Media
The power and reach of the social content contributor has caused corporations to sit up and take notice. How can they attract and compensate contributors with large followings to post on their behalf, bringing exposure to their brands? How can they transform prolific social posters into the digital age’s version of a celebrity spokesperson: an average individual highly regarded in their niche area of expertise? This strategy is essentially the evolution of reality television into social channels.
Companies have already started looking for brand ambassadors to contribute to their content economy. They seek out brand fanatics—in other words, early adopters who already exhibit brand loyalty. For this example, let’s use a fashion fanatic. A leading brand may solicit this person as a brand ambassador to post photos featuring them wearing newly released merchandise. The contributor may be compensated with free merchandise to exhibit in their posts, and further rewarded either monetarily or with additional merchandise as their following grows.
But while soliciting content from previously unpaid posters may seem relatively easy, with payment comes the notion of control. Unpaid content contributors pretty much post what they want, but once compensation comes into play, paying corporations will want to control content quality. After all, negative attention can bring harm to their brand reputation.
Today, when people are posting on their own platforms, the quality of their post reflects primarily on their personal brand. When a company is putting their name behind the publication, there will inevitably be an editorial process with contractual terms that must be satisfied prior to payout.
In the case of our brand fanatic, what if a photo is of poor quality or in poor taste? What if it includes an item from a competing brand, compromising brand equity? Companies will need to monitor social posts to make sure there is a consistent level of quality. Yet as social opens up to more and more contributors, it will be difficult to scale the review process. Dealing with 1,000 models (whose agencies are likely enforcing compliance) is a much different ballgame than dealing with 100,000 brand ambassadors posting to social. Who is going to check every post? Are proven high-quality posters vetted to post what they like? Can the review process be automated?
Paid social contribution is an inherent shift from the “sharing for the sake of sharing” tenor of today’s social, which carries an element of integrity. As trusted independent authorities become employees tasked with content marketing, the very fiber of social media shifts from a consumer-led conversation to a commercial bias.
When contributors become paid, it is inevitable that they will sign an agreement to adhere to rules, standards and restrictions set forth by the company that is employing them, which effectively censors their contributions. Will consumers be made aware that the contributor is paid, or will they be operating under the misapprehension that the views are unbiased?
As yet, content quality assurance processes have not been universally defined. Corporations are recognizing the importance of social in monetizing their IP, but the landscape is changing faster than processes can be established to manage it.