We Are The Champions: Building a Base of Passionate Digital Advocates

Brand managers and marketers are increasingly recognizing the vital role that digital communities play — not as an audience to broadcast to, but as a unique resource capable of amplifying traditional marketing efforts. These online gatherings of customers, enthusiasts, and advocates are dynamic ecosystems that — with the right motivation and engagement — can transform the reach and reputation of a brand.

Brand advocacy boosts visibility beyond the reach of conventional advertising, fosters deep customer loyalty, and drives growth and profitability. According to Gordon Glenister, genuine recommendations from trusted advocates can sway up to 74% of consumers toward purchasing from a brand. Developing and nurturing a community of committed advocates — whether customers, employees, or other stakeholders — is therefore a commercial and competitive imperative for businesses today.

In this 5-minute read, we’ll explore:

  • How to identify potential advocates within your network
  • The key to crafting content that engages and motivates advocacy
  • How to maintain high levels of engagement and participation
  • The importance of rewards and recognition to digital advocates
  • Real-world examples of the impact of advocacy programs

Understanding and connecting with your audience

Building a base of digital advocates begins with a thorough understanding of your audience. Identifying those customers or employees most likely to become brand advocates isn’t just about selecting the right demographics — it involves diving deep into their interests, values, and behaviors. By understanding what motivates them, you can build engagement strategies that resonate with potential advocates — and prompt them to act.

As highlighted in a recent article by Designwebkit, creating dedicated platforms for engagement, such as social media groups or online forums, provides an ideal starting point to nurture and connect with potential advocates. These platforms have the potential to become spaces where customers don’t just interact with the brand, but also connect with each other, fostering a sense of community and shared passion.

This needn’t be limited to customers — as digital marketers SocialFirm points out, “Brand advocates can include not only customers but also company personnel, business partners, influencers, and even social media influencers who genuinely believe in the brand and its offerings.” — although the exact approach may differ by audience.

Every comment, like, and share is a step towards building a loyal community — one that doesn’t just consume content passively but actively represents, promotes, and champions the brand. By analyzing the conversations and interactions that take place within these communities, brand managers can start to identify the most engaged and influential individuals and build an advocacy strategy around their behaviors and preferences.

Crafting engaging and authentic content

Turning followers into advocates means developing content that not only engages but resonates deeply with your core audience. This process requires a strategic approach, where content is tailored to appeal to those contacts identified as most likely to become advocates. To do this effectively, brands must mirror the narratives and values that align with their audience’s interests — creating content that speaks directly to their experiences, aspirations, and needs.

However, that doesn’t mean constantly changing the tone or content to try and win over as many converts as possible — authenticity is crucial to the process. Digital consumers can easily distinguish between genuine messaging and marketing speak — and the latter is not effective in building long-term productive relationships. Truly authentic content should build trust and strengthen the emotional bond between a brand and its audience. Consistency of communication style and content is also vital, to reinforce the brand’s voice, message, and positive associations.

The most effective strategy though, is to encourage your community to create their own content — from posts to videos to reviews. According to Entrepreneur.com, social media content posted by employees is shared 25 times more frequently and achieves 8 times more engagement than content shared through a company’s official social media accounts. As for customers, SproutSocial reports that user-generated content — also known as earned media — “is trusted by 92% of consumers around the world beyond all other types of advertising. And 70% of consumers will trust other consumers’ opinions posted online.”

Encouraging community interaction and participation

Active interaction and participation are crucial to a thriving digital community — the network effect means that once activity starts to slow down, participation can drop off extremely quickly. The key challenge therefore is not creating platforms for engagement — it’s keeping these spaces engaging, relevant, and welcoming.

AI tools can play a crucial role, in supporting human teams in managing and moderating these spaces cost-effectively and also in personalizing user experiences to build engagement. But it’s vital to maintain a human element — potential advocates won’t stick around long if they feel they’re only ever interacting with a chatbot. Using AI solutions should be viewed as complementary to human involvement, taking on the more routine administrative tasks and freeing up representatives to engage more deeply with the community — rather than replacing them altogether.

Encouraging user-generated content is a powerful strategy for building authentic engagement. When customers or employees share their own stories, experiences, and content related to the brand, it adds a layer of trust and relatability that marketing-focused content can never achieve. This not only enhances intra-community engagement but also provides brand managers with invaluable insights into customer perceptions and experiences — as well as opening up conversations with content creators about taking on a more formal advocacy role.

Monitoring feedback is integral to the success of digital communities. Responding promptly, transparently, and openly to both positive and negative feedback demonstrates a brand’s commitment to its community. This is where human interaction adds value in a way that automated replies cannot — thoughtful, empathetic, and constructive responses can turn a negative comment into an opportunity to demonstrate the brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction — and if the resolution is effective enough, turn a dissatisfied customer into a vocal advocate.

For businesses lacking the resources to have employees contribute to community conversations and discussions in real time, outsourcing is a potential solution to ensure their platforms maintain a much-needed human presence. Outsourced teams bring specialized skills and insights, as well as on-demand availability and scalability — helping to maintain an active and engaged digital community without overstretching limited budgets.

Recognizing and rewarding digital advocacy

Once brands have a thriving and engaged community that responds positively to their content, the next stage in developing digital advocacy is implementing a framework to reward community members’ contributions — whether that’s positive mentions online, sharing or publishing content, or making referrals from their own networks.

Reward systems for customers or partners can take various forms, from exclusive access to products or services to recognition on social media platforms, and even involvement in brand development processes. This not only shows appreciation for their contributions but also deepens their connection to the brand. For employees, recognition might include public acknowledgment, career development opportunities, or incentives tied to advocacy goals.

Advocacy in action: real-world examples

Some of the world’s largest brands have successfully turned their customers and employees into brand champions through innovative advocacy programs — and while their budgets may be somewhat larger than the majority of companies, the fundamentals of digital community engagement and recognition remain the same — listening to stakeholders, championing their contributions and involving them in their output.

Starbucks has publicly shared social media guidelines for its staff, as reported by Haillo, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to effectively represent the brand on personal and corporate social media platforms — ensuring consistency and authenticity in their content. The company has also excelled in centralizing employee-generated content, and establishing employee partner accounts on various social networks.

This enables employees to contribute photos, stories, and discussions about the company, fostering a sense of community and connection with their audience of over half a million followers.

And on the customer advocacy side, a case study published by Influitive reveals that network solutions provider Cisco has successfully developed an extensive global customer advocacy program, uniting over 24,000 brand advocates worldwide — which has not only generated thousands of acts of advocacy but has also successfully engaged 740 customers in campaign webinars, and involved 478 customer advocates in Cisco Live events, showcasing its ability to connect and empower its customer base.


Cultivating a loyal base of digital advocates, both internal and external, is not merely a niche marketing strategy — it’s an investment in a company’s future, building a vibrant, engaged community that actively participates in and advocates for the brand’s success over the long term.

Companies taking the first steps towards building an advocacy network, or those looking to better engage their existing employee and customer advocates could benefit from working with an expert partner. SourceCX has precisely that expertise — offering practical advice, technological support, and on-demand human expertise to help maximize the potential of the human capital available to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

In a world where trusted individual voices are increasingly more influential than traditional mass-market advertising, this type of organic engagement is crucial. Ultimately, the power of online advocacy lies in its ability to connect and mobilize people behind a brand message, turning both consumers and employees into a key driver of sustainable revenue and growth.