Engage Online Ambassadors

As social media becomes more prominent, “online ambassadors” have become essential advocates.

Earlier this year, Nielsen conducted a study to determine the types of advertising and promotion people trust most. Justin Ware summarizes key findings for Bentz Whaley Flessner in, “Nielsen Study Shows the Monumental Importance of Online Ambassadors” (January 23, 2013).

In brief:

“… if you want someone to know and trust your organization your best bet is having someone they know post something about your org online.”

Jenna Hanington has written for a corporate audience in Pardot, “The Importance of Customer Testimonials” (May 6, 2013).

“Think back to the last time you bought a pair of shoes, or researched the next book you wanted to read. Where did your search start? If you’re like any other consumer, it probably began with customer reviews. Why? Because reviews are candid. They’re not published by the company promoting the product; they’re not fluffed up with marketing lingo and meaningless buzzwords; and most importantly, they’re the words of people just like you.”


Do you have an online ambassador program?

My suggestion to nonprofit organizations is to include the role of “online ambassador” in the job descriptions for board and advisory board members who are active on social media. Can they set aside time once weekly, every few weeks, or monthly to share a positive experience, and to encourage their colleagues to support your nonprofit organization? This is a simple, but ultimately very helpful request to make.

Certainly, you would expect leading volunteers and donors to be community advocates and to say positive things about your nonprofit’s work and accomplishments whenever and wherever appropriate. If your advocates are also active online, consider asking them to set aside time to share their opinions and experiences online.

Justin Ware, whom I quote above, suggests nonprofit organizations engage in:

  1. Ongoing identification of potential ambassadors for both awareness building and fundraising initiatives.
  2. Stewardship of those potential and approved ambassadors through good content and smart online conversation management.
  3. A plan for contacting potential ambassadors and officially bringing them into the program.
  4. A strategy for leveraging the support of your ambassadors.

I couldn’t agree more.

“Simply put, a robust ambassador program could be the most important thing your nonprofit can do from a communications standpoint.”

Geoff Livingston wrote a clever article for Razoo: Inspiring Generosity, “5 Ways to Engage Online Ambassadors” (October 20, 2011). Somewhat unusually, Geoff talks about using social media to inspire major gift prospects and donors.

As I know first-hand from my volunteer work with NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network, not everyone has understood that older generations – and those inclined to make major gifts – are also interested and involved in social media, not just the “general public” (see my blog articles, “Baby Boomers and Seniors are Embracing Digital Media” and “Americans and Their Gadgets”).

Geoff notes:

“Successful social media-based fundraising in many ways is about democratizing development best practices. If you want to develop online relationships with people who care about your cause, use tried and true development tactics.”

He shares a variety of creative ideas, from creating a social media advisory board to putting their names on a digital ambassador recognition “wall” on your website.

Ask your donors and volunteers to “cheer lead” online for your nonprofit.

In The UBER-Blog, Alexandra Cojocaru discusses “social media superheroes.” In, “The Emergence of the Social Media Superhero” (May 30, 2012, link no longer available online)) she remarks:

“Much like search engine marketing 10 years ago, social media has now become core to many businesses marketing strategies. With that has also come the emergence of individual roles that are more specialized and unique to social media.”

Alexandra discusses the traits of four key social media “personas”: the Online Ambassador, Social Evangelist, Digital Strategist, and the Data Junkie. I certainly recognize some of my distinguished colleagues in Alexandra’s descriptions, but I had not thought about engaging them online in such insightful ways.

As social media becomes increasingly influential and essential in our world today, don’t let the cart come before the horse, take the reins. Put social media to work for your organization!

Carolyn M. Appleton

Updated: June 10, 2013