Turn Member Influencers Into Industry Ambassadors

If you have members who are influential in your industry or profession, consider putting them to work as ambassadors. A look at some roles to consider them for.

Influencer marketing isn’t just for A-list celebrities and social media personalities with tens of thousands of followers.

Inside an association, an influencer might be anyone from the CEO to a new member with a small network of highly engaged followers, otherwise known as a “micro-influencer.”

Regardless of where your association’s influencers reside, consider if they could serve as an ambassador for your industry or profession. That’s exactly what the Women in Trucking Association (WIT) did with its Driver Ambassador program, launched earlier this month.

Kellylynn McLaughlin—a professional commercial-motor-vehicle driver and training engineer who was also a dedicated WIT volunteer—will be the official WIT Driver Ambassador and travel around the country discussing the many career benefits she’s received from being part of the industry.

In addition to serving as an ambassador, McLaughlin’s role, which actually made her a part-time WIT staffer, will also have her sharing stories on a blog, serving as a subject-matter expert to media requests, and educating legislators and the general public about the trucking profession.

“Kellylynn has such a passion for the job, and you want to find your best members who can project that out to others,” says WIT Vice President Debbie Sparks. “As an ambassador, she talks about why she loves being a professional truck driver, but she also uses her position to help recruit new members.”

Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a part-time ambassador like WIT did, there are several other ambassador roles that your members can play. Here are three other association examples:

Online community ambassadors. Some of your most engaged members might also be frequent contributors to your association’s online community. At the International Society for Technology in Education, members are frequently called upon to help nurture and grow online engagement as community ambassadors.

“Some examples include welcoming in new members, nudging along conversations that need further attention, or seeding the community with discussions during quieter periods,” says ISTE’s Director of Community Engagement Simon Helton. “We rely on [members] quite a bit, especially because we cover such a wide range of topics and there’s just no way to have enough expertise on our staff to do it all.”

Social media ambassadors. If members influencers are adept at using Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter, associations can recruit people to become social media brand ambassadors for the organization.

In July, Melissa Russom of Nonprofit Tech for Good outlined seven key steps that make a social media ambassador program successful. Essential to a program’s success are the resources, media assets, and guidelines you provide influencers. Also, a degree of flexibility is required.

“This is not the time for brand policing,” she writes. “You want individuals with personalities. You want your ambassadors to be themselves, not a scripted version that resembles themselves and strips away the authenticity that made their relationship as an ambassador so powerful, to begin with.”

Show ambassadors. A few years ago, my colleague Sam Whitehorne blogged about the value of enlisting show ambassadors as part of your conference strategy.

Conference ambassadors can be especially helpful if your association is looking to get its students or young professionals better engaged. By having these groups serve as ambassadors, there could be bonus payoffs for your long-term membership strategy. “These programs allow associations to get students involved in and familiar with what they do,” Whitehorne writes. “This could mean the students become members in the years ahead, bringing a new generation and dues revenue with them.”

How have you used member influencers as part of an ambassador program? Post your comments below.

The Women in Trucking Association recently launched a driver ambassador program. (Smederevac/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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