With the amount of competition from big-box stores and massive online retailers, maintaining a boutique or niche business can be challenging. But many online shoppers do want to support small businesses — especially small clothing businesses with unique offerings. Niche and boutique clothing retailers can use brand ambassadors to generate buzz around new product lines and fashion trends, and to spread word of mouth about their brands.
Although the number of social media influencers has grown sharply in recent years, the brand ambassador phenomenon is still at the cutting edge of affiliate marketing. One of the strengths of working with brand ambassadors is that this strategy allows for fresh, authentic content to be delivered directly to potential customers from a trusted source. However, it’s crucial to use brand ambassadors wisely to maintain your image — and a trusting relationship with your customers.
What Is a Brand Ambassador?
Brand ambassadors use their social reach to advocate for your brand, showing its quality and how it works for them in everyday life. With the growing popularity of social media, most brand ambassadors use one or more social media platforms to post content related to and showcasing the brand.
Brand ambassadors usually receive free products (specifically new products) or a commission in return for generating sales. They are a type of affiliate marketing that can dramatically improve your boutique’s reputation and sales if you choose the right influencers.
The difference between an influencer and a brand ambassador is that influencers usually do short-term collaborations with a brand, and brand ambassadors have long-term relationships. Brand ambassadors typically have some level of exclusivity, meaning they won’t advertise for other brands within your same product category or niche.
One estimate puts influencer marketing spending at $15 billion by 2022. Although this number may sound small compared to traditional marketing, it is huge considering the potential return on investment brands can get, especially when targeting a niche demographic. This number is also likely to grow in the future as social media shopping use spreads among older demographics.
Choosing a Platform to Target
Different social media platforms appeal to different demographics. Although TikTok and Instagram are more popular with young adults and teens, Twitter and Facebook remain popular with millennials and older generations.
The highly visual nature of TikTok and Instagram makes them excellent choices for showcasing clothing and fashion, so they may be the best choice for boutique clothing. However, if a niche influencer you want to work with only operates on another platform, consider working with them if they can still reach your target demographic. It’s fine to target multiple platforms, but avoid spreading yourself too thin.
Look for Influence
You may already have some excellent influencers interacting with your social media accounts. Start by going through the recent likes and comments on your post and noting their follower counts. If any of them have 20,000 followers or more, they may be worth trying to collaborate with, especially if they already make posts highlighting brands they like.
Also, try identifying major influencers in a lifestyle or demographic you want to appeal to. You may have to research who comments on and interacts with their content to make sure they’ll effectively reach your target demographic.
Different influencers have different styles and types of content. Some specialize in short visual content, while others do longer reviews and lifestyle blog posts. Longer review and lifestyle posts may be better for clothing that’s very functional or outdoors-focused, so look for this type of content if your boutique is in this niche.
Keep in mind that numbers aren’t everything and that a soon-to-be brand ambassador with a million followers may be less effective than one with 100,000 or less. It’s worthwhile to check exactly how much engagement an influencer’s posts have. Pay special attention to their promotional posts and posts about clothing, as they may have more engagement on some topics than others.
Because of the level of commitment and exclusivity involved in being a brand ambassador, many influencers prefer to start with short-term campaigns. This can work in your favor, as it gives you the chance to test out strategies and see which influencers have the reach you need. It also allows you to see which influencers are reliable and communicate well enough to meet your needs.
After commenting on and liking some of their posts, reach out to an influencer with an invitation to collaborate on a short-term series of posts. Doing multiple posts instead of a single one may be more effective because of how easy it is for would-be customers to miss a single post in their social media feeds. Like with brand influencers, these posts can use an affiliate link that earns the influencer a commission or free products as compensation.
Remember that content marketing can take a variety of shapes and forms using multiple media types. If your influencer of choice is too busy for a longer series but is open to doing a product review or one-time video, take them up on their offer. Their one-time post could still be highly effective if they know their target audience well.
Most influencers have a preferred contact method listed in their profile, especially if they’re popular and have a high number of DMs. An email is usually the most professional option and allows you to include attachments and links. Ensure your message is authentic and friendly, with at least one reference to something they’ve recently posted, so the recipient knows it’s not just a form letter.
An influencer may have in their bio that they are not currently looking for collaborations, and you should always respect this. Although you can send one follow-up message if they ignore the first one, avoid messaging again after ignoring two messages. You can try again in a few months if you release a new product line that may be of particular interest to them.
Influencers usually pride themselves on their self-expression and personality, which is part of why they become so popular. When you recruit them as brand ambassadors, you need to work within their framework instead of controlling every aspect of their posts. If you need a different approach for a specific campaign or product launch, consider bringing a new brand ambassador onto the team.
Content creation requires a certain degree of originality, and it’s unwise to simply copy an ad campaign or social media post of another brand. Trust your brand ambassadors to come up with their own content within your established guidelines. Although you’ll want to make sure their messaging is accurate and doesn’t clash with your company ethos, this is rarely an issue if you’ve recruited your brand ambassadors wisely.
Also, remember that not all content has to explicitly advertise your products. Sponsoring content that promotes your brand associates’ general lifestyle can also help build goodwill and foster your brand ambassador’s skills and level of influence. Videos that go viral and attract a ton of new followers can result in a major boost for your branding over time.
Honest content and full disclosure of advertising are part of social media marketing 101. Although you want brand ambassadors to say positive things about your product, you also don’t want them to be dishonest and jeopardize relationships with their fans, which could hurt your image.
Understand that brand ambassadors may want to do reviews that mention one or two downsides of your product instead of claiming that it’s perfect. This realism helps cement their reputation with fans, so it’s something to be cherished instead of erased. Brand ambassadors should always disclose when they’ve received a free product or use an affiliate link that pays them a commission. Not disclosing this can cause legal trouble and can ultimately affect fan trust.
Ask for honest feedback on clothing from your ambassadors, and never penalize them for being honest in private conversations with you. Not only does this show the brand ambassador that their opinion matters, but it also gives you insight into how to improve your overall brand. Remember that many fashion influencers are highly experienced in buying and trying many types of clothing, and this expertise can serve you well if you keep communication open.
Decide on a Number
Once your brand has grown, you may find that influencers start reaching out to you asking to become brand ambassadors. Some brands end up creating large brand ambassador communities to keep sales as high as possible. Although they work hard to make these communities feel like a club and a team, they keep the community relatively open to new participants, even if they don’t have high follower counts.
However, some high-end boutiques may decide that maintaining the image of their brand ambassadors requires some selectivity. You may want to use a more robust application process and require a certain minimum follower count to maintain your brand’s image of exclusivity, even if it means losing a few sales.
Track Your Success
With any marketing campaign, it’s essential to have a system for measuring your success. As with any campaign, the best way to measure your success is to have a quantifiable goal for your brand ambassador campaign. You can choose to focus on improving sales, reaching new customers, or growing your following on Instagram or Twitter.
While working with individual influencers is a fantastic option for expanding your social media following, most companies use brand ambassadors to increase their sales. Since you’ll need to put in time and money and often send free products, you want to ensure you get something in return.
However, while ROI and increased sales revenues should be your top priority when tracking a brand ambassador campaign, you can evaluate several other factors as well. Make sure to track these key performance indicators (KPIs) for each ambassador so that you can identify the top and bottom performers.
Social Media Engagement
Use this metric to see how your ambassadors’ posts do with their followers. You can track the number of likes, shares, and comments. The more engagement your ambassadors’ posts receive, the more leads and sales conversions you’ll see.
- Reach of Content
This metric helps you see how many people have seen your ambassadors’ posts. You can also analyze which groups the content reaches and speak with your ambassadors about targeting specific groups.
- Lifetime Value
Customers who come back for multiple purchases have a higher Lifetime Value to your company than customers who just come for a one-off buy. By asking your customers how they found you, you can see whether your ambassadors attract high-value customers.
- Online Traffic
Your ambassadors encourage traffic to your site, which means you can boost your affiliate sales. The more traffic your site gets, the more likely it is someone will make a purchase. Many social media platforms allow you to track how many people clicked on your site’s link from your ambassador’s post.
Maintain the Relationship
Ambassadors are often in high demand, so you need to maintain a personal relationship with them as much as possible. Although this is difficult to accomplish if you have an extensive ambassador program, home in on your top-performing ambassadors and ambassadors with strong niche influence. Personalize your outreach and make sure they know that you’re always open to questions and suggestions. Always provide your ambassadors with fresh ideas and new products to promote as often as possible.