Ambassador programs are proving more and more popular as the tech industry expands and they often fall under the responsibility of a community manager. Depending on the size of the company, product, and a multitude of other factors, ambassador groups can vary significantly both in purpose and organization. Finding the appropriate type of group for your organization takes some thinking!
Should you have an ambassador group?
When implementing an ambassador program, a community manager has to first ask the purpose of having one and then select the type of program most useful to them. At breakfast we spoke about whether or not an ambassador program is a smart move and first had to first segment ambassador groups into evangelists and testers. While there's some overlap in groups meant to promote the product (evangelists) and groups meant to give feedback on product enhancements (testers), the breakfast group found it useful to divide ambassador groups into these two distinct roles. Evangelists can be useful for companies that like to keep the product close to them, are looking for ways to increase brand awareness, and want to formalize the champtions they already have. Testers are great for companies with software that constantly evolves who want customer input.
Once you decide on what kind of ambassador program would be most appropriate, you have to ask yourself if you have the time necessary to assure the program is a success. As expressed at breakfast, a lot of community managers get to the point of deciding what purpose an ambassador group will fullfill but then realize that they have too much on their plate to make sure the program pays off.
You have an ambassador group! Now what?
After identifying the most appropraite user to invite into your ambassador group (which may not always be the most active/passionate as someone pointed out), you have to manage them! A big part of what we considered were reward programs. The big question was, "How do you reward a subset of people without creating a rift in your community?" We didn't find a perfect answer to it but we did determine that excessive rewards aren't a great idea. The people you choose to be in your ambassador program should be excited enough to promote or test your product without added incentive, but you do want to show them that you appreciate them.
Something we don't always think about as community managers are legal issues. If you're showing off an incomplete product, it's in your company's self-interest to make sure that your ambassador group conforms to all the standards it needs to and assures that nothing leaks. Do you use emails? A private forum? Have a chat with your lawyer or product team to figure out how to best go about that.
Ambassador groups require constant management and analysis to assure that they're paying off. What sorts of traits do you look for in potential ambassadors and what kind of group would be most helpful to your organization? We'd love to hear from you!