The position of brand ambassador is a paid position no matter how you slice it

The term brand ambassador is so hot right now.

And with good reason. The prevalence of social media has changed this term wildly, effectively blowing open its classically defined parameters, both in practice and fiscally. Have we ruined the term? Do we overuse it? Nah. But we probably don’t respect the term like we should.

Brand ambassing used to be reserved for those we considered social influencers (another bloated term which is perhaps more often used frivolously). The two types of social influencers at that time being, celebrities and lobbyists. The ambassador inundates himself in the brand, has his recitals at the ready, and advocates for the brand when called to. Let’s be very clear: this was a paid position.

It could be by private contract or the individual might have himself a full-time position with all the bennies. Brands knew how important this role was. Some believed/believe the brand ambassador position is the most important position to fill when it comes to a company’s bottom line.

Well, if that’s the case, why is this term used more widely now than ever? If that position was so important, why hadn’t the term entered the laymen’s lexicon until lately?

The answer is: the dawn of content marketing, it’s acceptance as a necessity, and more specifically the rise in social media usage.

What would you call a customer who identifies with your brand enough that he dons one of your t-shirts, that he paid for, and parades it publicly? Is he not a brand ambassador? He wasn’t 30 years ago. Today he would be. The same goes for someone who is willing to share one of your products in a Facebook post. This customer advocates for your brand; he walks into a virtual room filled with his peer-base and says, “You should buy this. I did.” We’ve always known peer referrals were powerful. Are they now the end-all-be-all?

Society has become more jaded. We have access to information we couldn’t have even imagined just 30 years ago. Take acting for instance. Did you know what method acting was 30 years ago? Probably not. But actors did. With knowledge like this, we have a deeper understanding of what people are capable of. Do you believe an actor when he advocates for a brand? Probably less and less. You’re jaded. You understand the ins-and-outs of that entire transaction.

Who do you believe? You probably believe someone you can confirm actually tried the product and who curates and manicures their digital social footprint. Why would they share something that might cause them lash back from their peers? Not everyone is careful with what they issue through social media channels, but we know the ones that are and we have some weird trust in them. We at least trust them more than Michael Phelps. That said, cupping became huge all of the sudden, so brands probably still use celebrities as brand ambassadors.

Social media users as brand ambassadors: a modern craze. We pay “instagram models” to gain brand recognition (mix of the classic brand ambassador position and the modern). We give away free content to endear potential customers, turn them into followers, and then into ambassadors (modern interpretation). It’s all a numbers game and the more ambassadors…

While the parameters of the brand ambassador position has changed, so has its pay scale. We’ve watched for decades now as the number of social media content creators rises, continues to rise, and isn’t it peculiar that we all do it for free? The content is clearly valuable in some inherent way. Otherwise no one would participate. Still we give it away for free. Brands recognize this and capitalize on it.

Here’s the rub: no matter what you do in an attempt to mold your followers into brand ambassadors, you’re paying for it. We may think we’re getting our followers to share our content for free because we’re not paying them directly but, how did you convert them? Giving them free content? You paid for that content creation. Giveaways? Your product costs money. Cause marketing? Donated funds. Ad buys?…

Do we need better win strategies? Do we need win strategies that benefit every follower who is willing to put our message or product in front of their peers? When someone vouches for our brand, have we come to expect it because people give their ideas and their time away for free every day? Are we showing our followers how valuable they truly are when we work to manipulate them into advocacy instead of paying them outright? Are there ways to provide even some small wins to all or a majority of our followers for their advocacy? Though the scale and parameters of brand ambassador have changed, should we return to thinking of this position as coveted and worthy of compensation?

I think so.

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Matthew Praetzel

Thinker / Programmer / Late night contemplator More about this guy

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