5 Tips for Building a Campus Ambassador Program Without Losing the Human Touch

Looking to tap into the nearly $574B spending power that 21.4M college students have? With school back in session, college students are a great way to expand your brand’s footprint & discover a new crop of brand loyalists–the key to success is building a campus ambassador program.

Whether it’s flyering around the dorms, hosting events on campus, or driving social engagement, college ambassadors can help you increase brand awareness and sales with the target Gen Z audience.

 

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Check out some of our best tips & tricks for activating your brand on campuses.

1. Choose the Right People

Hiring students who are naturally motivated to talk about your brand to their friends is important. Your brand has an identity, so the people who represent it in the real world should share some of its qualities and the brand should seem like it authentically fits into the ambassador’s lifestyle. 

Lululemon, for example, when they built their ambassador team, they wanted the brand to feel like it had a hyperlocal feel, so instead of paying for traditional endorsements with celebrity athletes, the yoga-focused brand built an ambassador program of local influencers, elite athletes & top-notch yoga instructors who create a community, provide feedback on product and partner with the brand for social impact programs. 

By fostering more on a grassroots model the ambassadors feel connected to HQ and therefore take pride in their role. For example, if you have a women’s clothing brand you probably don’t want members of a men’s basketball team representing you on their campus.

2. Clearly Outline a Path for Success

If you don’t have a strategy with a quantitative plan in place — with clear expectations mapped out —  managing hundreds or even thousands of college students will immediately feel like herding cats. Don’t forget — their #1 priority is being in college — so don’t make it complicated for them to spread the word about your brand.

Once you have hired the right people, you should make sure you give them a clear checklist of what they will need to do and give them tips and tricks on how to be successful. By being transparent about the standards and the goals you have for the program your ambassadors will be more likely to stay engaged. Checklists and leaderboards will help you keep everyone on track. 

For example — if your ambassadors are expected to hang 50 door hangs, ask them to submit evidence and then automatically verify via photos and Google Maps that they completed the task.

Once you have your foundation tasks in place, give ambassadors easy ways to unlock more rewards / payment in exchange for creating increased value for your brand. For example — if your #1 goal is new subscribers, increase the compensation model for your ambassadors to get more emails/downloads/sales. 

3. Establish Expectations

Don’t forget that most college students have never been salespeople — in fact, most have probably never had a boss or even a job (other than maybe walking dogs or mowing lawns) — so you need to give them the tools and training they will need to be successful critical thinkers and problem solvers who can — most importantly — meet deadlines, without losing the human touch between you and the ambassador. 

Create an onboarding experience that clearly communicates your expectations so you can get them set up to succeed from the start.  For example, use calendar reminders for important deadlines or create forms for them to fill out that makes it easy for you to collect important information rather than going back and forth via email.

For teams really looking to scale, identify Team Leads and empower them to take ownership of managing the ambassadors on their teams and then compensate the top-performing Team Leads when they deliver great results. The key is to continuously reinforce the ambassadors and what they are contributing to the business so they feel that they have ownership in the process and help to validate that their relationship with you — the brand — is priceless.

4. Streamline Communication

“I don’t want to lose the relationship we have with our ambassadors, our program needs a human touch,” and we agree. But this doesn’t mean that your brand’s full-time employees need to be bogged down with every individual request that comes from an ambassador. Trust us, it’s a slippery slope and it actually means your ambassadors are confused if they keep reaching out with questions.

Use community-focused tools like group chat, message boards, and Team Leads to help keep your ambassadors engaged.

Put everything in one place — like a Google Drive — so they can easily find answers and get back to repping your brand in their voice. By giving them access to things like up to date logos/brand guidelines, knowledge banks / FAQs, articles, receipt folders, event recap forms, templates, and approved sales language, you are empowering your team to quickly discover the resources they need.

This will give ambassadors an easy path to get their questions answered quickly and your brand team time to focus on the overall strategy of the program. 

5. Empower the Team to be Creative

Now that you have your team selected, on-boarded and have clearly communicated expectations — unleash your team and challenge them to tell you what will work on their campus. For example for a Big 10 School, a tailgate for a homecoming football game might provide the perfect backdrop for your brand, but for a Northeast city school a St.Patrick’s Day event might create a bigger impact.

Create event forms for ambassadors to fill out. When approved, set a budget and set them loose. Just remember to make sure you give them the checklist of things you need in your event recap at the end like photos, surveys, etc.

Always remember, campus reps are there to give you feedback about your brand. Listen to them. They know what will work with their friends so trust them to meet your expectations. This way your brand’s persona will match what works on their campus vs trying to give your ambassadors a “one size fits all” list of tasks that work for your brand. Ultimately this will feel more authentic which will result in more conversions & organic impressions.

A college ambassador program can act as a powerful tool for all kinds of businesses– festivals, consumer apps, retail brands, political candidates, privatized campus housing, and more. And the best part is that there is mutual value because college students are hungry to learn and to improve their skills. By giving them a meaningful introduction to the world of business — and more importantly, teaching them the fundamentals of sales process & entrepreneurship– you can develop a network of lifelong brand advocates–and potential new employees after graduation.

Get Familiar with our Custom Feeds Feature

Are you familiar with SocialLadder’s feeds feature? 

Your ambassadors are constantly on social media, spending countless minutes scrolling through various newsfeeds. This is where they’re used to finding the latest trends and the next big event, so it’s a no-brainer that this is where they’ll be looking for more info while in your program. 

Below we’ll share three great ideas for how you can make the most of your feeds and engage with your ambassadors in whole new ways.

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1. Scheduling 

Need volunteers to work an upcoming event? Or maybe you need to track volunteer shifts? With our Google Drive integration, you can upload a link to a shared calendar to the feed and have ambassadors sign up directly through the SocialLadder app. 

2. Segmenting

As your ambassador program grows, knowing the details about each member is increasingly important. You can segment your ambassadors by creating a feed that requires them to input certain information, like their location or college, or even follower count to segment between micro- and macro-influencers. Ambassadors will automatically get tagged with the appropriate information and add them to the right segment, taking one more step off your plate. 

3. Flyering

Physical promo is still one of the best ways to get your brand out there, but coordinating flyer or sticker pick-up can be a logistical nightmare. Now you can create a feed that links to an email that ambassadors can easily click on to request promotional materials. 

Check out more about our custom feeds feature here

SocialLadder: The Shiny New Asset That Your Sponsors Will Love!

Properties ranging from concerts and festivals to sporting events and local fairs are increasingly facing more scrutiny over sponsorship assets and offerings. They are under constant pressure to provide more value and a concrete measurement of ROI for that value. Rights holders need to take a proactive role in their partners’ success by moving beyond packages that simply provide signage and other standard inventory in favor of imaginative, impactful and measurable engagement assets.

Boots and Hearts, Canada’s largest country music festival did just that. They offered a top tier sponsor, Coleman, the opportunity to name a collection of challenges that were published to ambassadors. Coleman was tagged in all ambassador’s posts, and their affiliation with the festival was shared across all ambassadors’ social accounts. The Official Checklist Challenge (pictured) alone generated over 38,000 impressions for Coleman. Boots and Hearts used the SocialLadder platform to boost their sponsors’ visibility and impact in and around the festival, unlocking increased value and possibilities for strategic upselling of future festival sponsorship packages.

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The SocialLadder technology provides a range of features that properties can take advantage of, and offer as an added value to their sponsorship partners. By offering sponsors access to the power of a SocialLadder ambassador team clients are creating solutions that can drive their sponsors’ business objectives while weaving the sponsor into the fabric of a highly engaged and connected community.

Here are a few ways to leverage SocialLadder ambassador challenges:

  • Sponsored Challenge: Name a set of challenges for a top tier sponsor to increase their visibility and brand awareness amongst the ambassador community. 
  • Sponsor Check-In Challenge: Task ambassadors with attending a Sponsor’s store opening, retail location, or event.
  • Sponsor Survey: Circulate a sponsor’s market survey digitally to a new, engaged, online community. 
  • Share and Sign Up: Drive signups for a sponsor’s blog, mailing list, or newsletter.
  • Sponsor Tags: Don’t forget to instruct ambassadors to tag your title sponsor on their unique content challenges. Imagine being able to report to your sponsor that you generated hundreds of thousands of additional impressions on their behalf!

Add these features into proposals to secure interest from new prospects or into existing agreements to enrich relationships with existing partners. Including sponsor-specific content in your SocialLadder ambassador initiatives, whether online or in the field shows your increased efforts in finding new ways to drive ROI for your partners, and keep them coming back for more.

Enhanced Instagram Features Perfect for Managing Your Influencers

Ambassadors Can Earn Credit for Photos & Videos Previously Posted to Instagram

We just released a new feature that makes completing Instagram challenges even easier. SocialLadder mobile-app users can now select from their past Instagram Gallery posts & videos to complete their Instagram challenges on SocialLadder.

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SocialLadder allows influencers, ambassadors, & all users to complete Instagram challenge by choosing from Instagram gallery, video, or carousel posts that have already been published to their Instagram page.  

Users no longer need to post their content through the SocialLadder app in order to get credit for their Instagram promotions. This is ideal for influencers who are creating high-quality content and sharing from desktop. 

For example, a brand influencer can post directly to their Instagram account from anywhere & submit their user-generated content to their brand managers via SocialLadder Instagram challenges. SocialLadder will instantly verify the content is posted. This allows the influencer to get credit for their required social posts while the brand manager can easily track the social media tasks & engagement history for content created by their influencer team. 

Check out the new feature here 

Contact us for a free demo to see how your influencer team can benefit from this product enhancement.

New SocialLadder Feature: In-App Chat

We’re happy to announce the launch of our latest in-app feature – SocialLadder Chat

This new feature helps to further streamline communication by making it easier for program Admins and app users to communicate with each other directly through the SocialLadder app. As an Admin, use the Chat to share important information with your team, provide support for any questions asked, and connect with your team in a more direct and personal setting. 

To access the Chat feature on the SocialLadder app, click on the message icon next to the bell icon at the top right-hand corner of your program area. Create a new message, select the user(s) you’d like to message and begin your conversation within seconds!

 

 

The In-App Chat supports:

  • Direct message and group message chat from app to app
    • Program Admins to users
    • Users to users
  • Standard emojis
  • Ability to see other users typing 
  • Time-stamped message tracking
  • Search users by name when creating a chat
    • Sorted by Admins, Friends (your friends in the program), and Everyone else
  • Notifications
    • In-App notification in the program area
    • Push notification of message details when outside of the app
  • Share and open direct links from conversations
  • Service required to view past conversations

For more information about the SocialLadder Chat capabilities, Request a Demo.

Why You Should Engage Your Ambassadors Year-Round

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know the power that ambassadors can have in helping to promote your upcoming events. From ticket selling to field marketing to social media posts, your ambassadors are not only your biggest fans but also your biggest advocates. 

You spend time building this engaged community, so why let the momentum slow just because your event has ended? 

By engaging your ambassador community year round, you can not only continue to generate buzz about your brand, but you can gather valuable consumer feedback & insights to make your next event even better. 

Here are 3 ways ambassadors can improve your marketing efforts 365 days a year:

  1. Organic content creation 

Ever heard of #ThrowbackThursday? Chances are your ambassadors have taken tons of photos and videos during your event. Encourage them to share their own content throughout the year to show all their friends what a great time they had as they begin planning for the next.

2. Ambassador spotlights

Your ambassadors have put in the work and vouched for your event, why not show them some love? . Use the time in-between events to give props to your community. Showcase some of your top sellers and social stars to bring attention to the program make your ambassadors feel like they’re really a part of your brand. You can even check out some of our own spotlights here for some inspiration.

3. Get feedback

Looking to get some ideas for  next year’s lineup or new merch offerings? Look no further than your ambassadors! Push out post-event surveys and polls to get insight into what your fans actually want to see as you prepare for the next event. And then put those initiatives into action! 

 

An Interview with Grace Seekins

Our client success team had a chance to chat with Grace Seekins, who freelances as a festival marketing and community engagement manager. She shares with us the value she finds in overseeing ambassador programs and additional trends in contemporary festival marketing. 

GraceSeekinsWhat’s your name?

Grace Seekins

What’s your title? 

Freelance Festival Marketing/Community Engagement Manager

What’s your role at AC Entertainment?

Grassroots Marketing Manager (Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Railbird)

What was the first festival you attended and what was your favorite thing about it?

In high school I went to Firefly in its first few years – it was my first music festival, my first camping festival, all of the above, and I was totally hooked. I saw music I loved, I discovered incredible new bands, but most of all I found myself surrounded by a bastion of positivity and energy and I was so happy to be a part of a much larger community of people enjoying and engaging with music. This was really the first time I experienced this large scale, music driven community mentality.

How did you get into the festival industry? What’s your favorite thing about your field of work?

When I started learning about and working in the music industry after college I knew I wanted to work towards being involved in festivals because of my interest in the community element of larger scale events. I started working on grassroots marketing and engagement for Bonnaroo thanks to a word of mouth opportunity that popped up and then other clients and contracts came from connections I made therein.

My favorite part of the work is engaging with patrons and fans and getting to talk to them about their festival experience – whether they’ve been coming for years or it’s their first time, it’s so moving to hear about the moments during the weekend that make a difference for them and what an impact the festival experience makes on their life overall.

What value do you feel ambassador programs bring to word of mouth marketing?

I would love to have personal conversations with each and every potential attendee, answer questions, attempt to communicate the breadth of the festival experience..but there aren’t nearly enough hours in the day. Ambassador programs allow this to happen on a smaller scale – our most enthusiastic ambassadors act on the front lines of word of mouth marketing, convincing their friends and classmates and coworkers that this is a weekend that is worth their time and money, an experience that will change their lives for the better.

Are there any ambassadors from your SocialLadder program that stood out? What made them stand out to you? 

In taking a look over the ambassadors that really stood out on the Railbird Festival leaderboard, not only was Tess Anderson (@tesssanderson) the top performing ambassador, but her personal and thoughtful digital presence regarding the festival really caught my eye. Clearly a huge fan of Tyler Childers, she thoughtfully and personally documented her experience over the weekend as a superfan and festival attendee in a way that expressed the level of emotion she felt during the weekend and effect that a weekend of music can have on each of us.

What do you feel is unique about integrating ambassador programs into festival marketing?

There are a few things I really appreciate about the integration of ambassador programs into festival marketing. It gives the most dedicated and committed fans an outlet for their brand enthusiasm and bring them into the fold in a way that makes them a functional part of the marketing effort. It builds community within these fans, providing opportunities for a more unique and involved festival experience. And it renders the festival experience more accessible – budget and monetary accessibility can be a huge stumbling block for many and to provide people with the ability to work for their ticket and other special experiences is so important.

What do you feel is in store for the future of festival marketing?

Outside of the festival weekend, so much of the festival community the rest of the year lives in the digital sphere – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, etc. I would love to see festivals seek to engage with their fanbase and demographic year round in more tangible and experiential ways, whether that be fan meet-ups, sponsored shows, social events, etc. There’s an opportunity here to not only cultivate a dedicated community year round, but to introduce people to the festival and convert potential ticket buyers.

Are there any brands that you feel are disrupting festival marketing with their portfolio of events? What do you feel they’re doing differently?

The events that I’m really curious to learn more about are the artist driven festivals. These teams can tap into existing passionate followings and specifically curate experiences for an existing fanbase and demographic – tailoring the festival based on the artist and what they know resonates with their audience. This, and the inclusion of large scale corporate brands in the festival production space also intrigues me – Amazon’s involvement in Intersect is an example here.

Streamlined Communication for Success

Good and effective communication is an essential tool in achieving productivity in any ambassador program and is crucial for maintaining strong, lasting relationships with your individual ambassadors. Marketers who commit to establishing clear and streamlined communication with their ambassador teams will surely succeed at building trust, maintaining accountability, and growing the community in an organic and meaningful way.  

There are a few challenges when it comes to establishing a good foundation for effective communication. For one, tracking a conversation or action item can become a logistical nightmare. The standard manual and digital tools that companies may use to communicate with ambassadors often lack the ability to successfully track the progress of individuals while also allowing them to assign new tasks. This can be overcome by investing in a solid analytics and reporting tool that tracks and measures the progress of ambassadors, while simultaneously giving the ambassadors themselves an easy way to collaborate and demonstrate that their tasks are complete and successful.

Streamlined communication also requires welcoming feedback and suggestions in addition to praise. Communication in ambassador programs for many companies is one-sided, possibly relying on generic emails or static newsletters. So yet another challenge is to maintain an organized program while giving ambassadors the sense that they are part of a collaborative community, and working on behalf of a company that values their ambassadors’ unique engagement and feedback. 

Brands should consider providing a forum for an open dialogue between the brand and its ambassadors to help build and maintain rapport between HQ and the team. Opening a two-way communication channel with your ambassadors will help brands create a strong sense of belonging within the community. Such a channel also offers direct feedback and a flow of creative ideas that will keep your ambassador program innovative and on message.

SocialLadder includes the following features to achieve streamlined communication and to make sure your brand ambassador community is thriving and not dying on the vine:

  • In-App Ambassador newsfeed with real-time activity & conversation
  • Push Notifications linked to challenges, rewards, & pertinent information
  • Quick access to information like handbooks, Google drive documents, videos, and more
  • In-App Chat Feature

It’s with these tools that running a successful brand ambassador program becomes possible-providing a solution for streamlined communication, and giving your community the power to deliver your message while communicating with each other. 

 

Living the #BootsLife with Canada’s Biggest Country Music Fest

Country music fans flock to Ontario’s Boots and Hearts from all over to see what the #BootsLife is all about. This year’s lineup again has some of the hottest country acts, such as Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and many more performing over 4 nights in August. With their rabid fans clamoring for a way to get involved and spread the word about the festival, organizers evaluated their options and decided SocialLadder would give them the versatility they needed to be a home for their fan ambassadors.

With nearly 1300 ambassadors in the program already, this year’s Boots and Hearts looks set to shine. 

 
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Use Your ImagineNation to Build an Engaged Community

Atlanta’s Imagine Music Festival is back with SocialLadder for the second year in a row, activating the “ImagineNation” ambassador team across the country. With the promotionally heavy squad that Imagine has built leading into year 6, they needed a platform that can:

  • Easily generate promo codes for over 1500 ambassadors, 
  • Manage street team activities from their backyard all the way across the country, 
  • And amplify their already robust social media presence. 

SocialLadder has been able to deliver on every aspect, with Imagine well on their way to exceeding last year’s totals of 3500 tickets sold and 22 million impressions, with 2x the number of ambassadors (and growing) already in the program.

Ambassador Sierra had this to say about this year’s program. “I have been promoting music events for over 7 years and I enjoy every moment and every opportunity I get to spread the word. I am so passionate about music and grateful for each event that allows our community to gather in celebration of it. Any chance I get to help someone else have a great experience makes it all worth it!”

Next up? Country Music Fans are flocking to get backstage