We’re proud and honored to announce that we’ve be awarded first place in the “Community Engagement” category of PR Daily’s 2017 Digital PR & Social Media Awards for our work in developing a thriving advocate community for eBay’s affiliate network program, eBay Partner Network (EPN).
Despite being ranked in the top three affiliate network programs worldwide by Revenue Performance magazine for three years running, with tens of thousands of online creators participating, our hand-crafted social listening reports for EPN revealed an apparent dearth of advocates for the nine-year-old program, as potentially positive voices were being drowned out by more negative opinions. We knew those advocates existed – there were plenty of affiliates earning substantial commissions and making a living as affiliate marketers. The challenge was around how we could encourage EPN’s natural advocates to speak up and create a more accurate picture of members’ perception.
Once the challenge was identified, we began to promote the idea of identifying eBay’s strongest affiliate marketing proponents and converting them into brand champions.
After a partner survey in 2015, in which it was clearly revealed that members were in reality very likely to recommend the program to others, we saw the opportunity to build a community of supportive affiliates and immediately began devising a strategy to amplify advocates’ positive perceptions about and experience with EPN.
Overall goals included:
- Increase and amplify EPN’s reach by tapping into customer advocates as a distribution channel
- Capitalize on publisher networks and the power of peer-to-peer influence: Increase the credibility of content by leveraging publishers to share it
- Boost positive perception
- Increase the amount of helpful and educational content about EPN available online
- 2016 goals: 5,000 acts of advocacy, 500 advocates, 100 public reviews/testimonials (although emphasis was really put on the overarching goals of increasing overall positive perception and increasing program consideration)
Our strategies & tactics:
We recommended a custom-designed customer advocacy program branded as “Insiders” that was specifically created to find and support the program’s natural advocates. We started with the promoters identified through the partner survey, then designed an application and invited this select group of enthusiastic affiliates to join this exclusive program that would make them feel more empowered and informed about EPN.
Strategy and tactics included the creation and launch of an EPN Insiders-branded AdvocateHub to activate and mobilize customer advocates to:
- Drive new partner applications via customer referrals
- Increase social proof and user-generated content (case studies, testimonials, reviews, blog posts, social shares, etc.)
- Leverage advocates as an extension of the EPN team (speaking engagements, PR, content creation)
- Learn more about EPN and how they can increase their income by providing educational tips, pilot program opportunities and more
- Reward and recognize advocates for the critical role they play in EPN’s success
- Make it easy and fun for advocates to share EPN content on social platforms and websites (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, forum, partner sites, etc.)
- Gamify the experience and utilize rewards to motivate Insiders to participate
- Use Influitive’s customizable solution to roll out a professional and scalable advocacy program
In concert with eBay, we then built out a private digital destination, the Insiders AdvocateHub, which includes a wealth of information, points-based challenges, rewards, and a discussion group to help build community and foster increased interactivity and connection with and among these most passionate EPN affiliates. We invited Insiders to share their stories and success tips on social media channels, blogs and forums; and gave them the tools they needed to become spokespeople for their own businesses and for EPN.
To build awareness of and involvement in the program, we shot a video with the director of EPN, John Toskey, inviting partners to join the program, and linked to the application. After this successful pilot period, we opened the program up to eliminate the application and invite all eligible partners to check out the program.
Insiders receive daily emails that highlight new challenges to maintain ongoing engagement. On the AdvocateHub itself, there are ongoing discussion topics with admins and fellow partners, as well as one-on-one discussions.The hub contains a mix of educational, fun and traditional advocacy challenges to keep members coming back for more while providing a mutually beneficial community.
The program launched in 2015; today the Insiders program has grown to include more than 1,000+ advocates and is consistently expanding.
Additionally, Insiders completed 17,000+ acts of advocacy to date and have contributed user-generated content/social proof for EPN that includes 3,000+ social shares and 200+ reviews — all of which far exceeded original goals established at the outset of the Insiders program.
The anecdotal positive response has also been overwhelming; in addition to several powerful case studies, which have been used for blog posts, here are a few comments about the program:
- “Insiders is what everybody needs. A great community of caring people and it is filled with opportunities to learn.”
- “I have found a great deal of useful information and a supportive community.”
- “Fun, learning, awesome, friendly, rewards on top!”
- “This has kept me more up to date on eBay topics than ever before. It’s a great platform!”
- “I’ve been more engaged since Insiders launched. Learning lots!”
- “I’ve learnt a few things that I would never have come across otherwise.”
- “Being a member of a community like Insiders is so meaningful in feeling valued.”
Not only are the advocates enthusiastic about the Insiders program, but they are also more likely to speak favorably about EPN and report higher levels of satisfaction with EPN than non-Insiders.
These advocates have gone above and beyond anything EPN and we had hoped to achieve with this program. They help prospective members with questions about the program, write reviews based on their experience, provide product feedback and act as beta testers, attend partner events and more.
One year after launch, our social analysis has shown a tremendous increase in positive sentiment – nearly tenfold – and we’re constantly finding new ways to create mutually beneficial opportunities for EPN’s advocates. In fact, we have bold plans for the next phase of this program, so stay tuned!
Note from Just Drive Media: Special shout-out to Kelly Caird, our Director of Social Media Engagement and Customer Advocacy. This award is a testimony to her creative thinking, hard work and dedication.
Finally, we are grateful to eBay and EPN for the opportunity to develop and evolve this thriving community of advocates, and we share this award with their passionate and talented in-house team!