Advocacy marketing brings authentic, qualitative traffic to brands' social media: SOCXO's Sudarsan Rao

SOCXO co-founder and CEO Sudarsan Rao talks about the benefits of advocacy marketing.

MUMBAI: Just two years old in the Indian market, with a relatively fresh concept of advocacy marketing, SOCXO is already working with some of the biggest players in the industry including Mahindra, Aegon Insurance, ICC Prudential, and Tata Capital among a few others. Also functional in Europe & US, it is working with more than 40 brands and provides them a ‘SaaS & Mobile’ platform to drive employee/brand advocacy programs.

The platform allows businesses to use their employees, partners, and customers as the advocates of their brands and drive more authentic and qualitative traffic on social platforms, which in turn can ensure an improved sale. SOCXO co-founder and CEO Sudarsan Rao in an exclusive conversation with talks about the platform and how it can help brands in driving better engagement. Edited excerpts follow:

1.  What is the size of the advocacy marketing market?

Employer advocacy or brand advocacy is a very nascent market. I would say, globally with our competitors in the US and Europe, we are collectively doing a business of 100-150 million. The potential market size in the next two years could be $500 million.

In India, my assumption is that the market will definitely grow. Looking at our performance, we have 25-30 customers already in just two years. In the coming 4-5 years, I expect it to become worth $100 million.

2.  How did SOCXO come together?

We started two years ago, in early 2017. We had this concept of brand advocacy or advocacy marketing, which had been present in the European and the US markets for quite some time, but in South Asia and India was still a nascent idea. We realised that this can be a big opportunity as India is quite big in the social media space. Yet it was an area being completely ignored by the brands. We came into the picture to make brands realise that they can actually leverage their followers through the content.

3.  How can platforms like SOCXO help brands?

In the past few years, with so many brands using social media to promote their products, the core purpose of the platforms started to get lost in the clutter. The platforms took notice of this and started working to reduce the noise of brands from the feeds. It impacted the organic reach of the brands, which has now fallen down to single-digit percentages. With this, they had to resort to paid marketing, which is expensive and does not bring a qualitative audience to the platform.

We realised that if we can create a platform to drive and harness the connections of the employees associated with a particular business, we can drive more authentic users to the brands. If you have 50-60 employees in your company and they post your content on their social media handles; their connections will obviously trust them more and thus will engage with the content.

With SOCXO, we provide these companies with a platform along with a mobile app that can help them aggregate all your social media and other online data at one place. We can help them moderate that content and suggest which department in the company should put what on their social media handles. We can also find out how many people engaged with particular content from a particular person’s post and can also attribute the traffic they drive to the site.

4.  How is advocacy marketing different from influencer marketing?

The influencers don’t share all kinds of content. With them, it is more about running a specific campaign with the core aim to sell something. Whereas when you look at employee-driven or partner-driven content, it is not just about the campaign but also about employer-brand relationship. It amplifies the culture of a company.

The second thing is social selling. It helps you create more organic conversations around topics that matter to the company or even to an individual. For example, if you are the VP of sales in a company, you would love to create conversations around customer engagement, product innovations, sales, etc.

Another thing is social hiring. So, HR of any business would love to use their employee references and hire candidates who understand the business. Then comes social PR, where you can have your employees promote any news in the press about your company on their social handles.

So, to sum up, the application of brand advocacy has multiple facets and not just creating awareness about products or selling them, which influencer marketing essentially does. The traffic you drive is more qualitative than quantitative.

5.  How can brand advocates, who are also the employees of the company, benefit from it?

We run incentive programmes on our apps where employees can be rewarded for the traffic that they bring to the site. Also, it helps in an individual’s personal branding. We tell companies that people are no longer just intellectual assets of the company but also brand assets on social media. Personal branding drives advocacy as well.

6.  How have you been marketing yourself to drive more business?

It is quite interesting to market one when you are a category disruptor or a category creator. If there is a defined problem in the business, you will have hundreds of competitors selling solutions for them. So, the concept is already there, you just have to market your tools.

But with us, the concept itself is very new to the market. We, thus, have to bring the concept in and educate the market about it. Then, when they realise that there is a new way (of marketing), which is more authentic and more qualitative, we can sell them our tools.

Therefore, for the first one and a half years, we sold the concept and now we are promoting our platform and other tools of brand advocacy.

In India, from a tool perspective, we have had a very strong entry in the market and we are planning to continue building upon that. 

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