Brand Evangelist Jobs - An Oxymoron?
Brand Evangelist Jobs: An Oxymoron?
Brand Evangelist Jobs: An Oxymoron?

Good morning, folks! My name is Jordan Cooper and I’m the official brand ambassador of this blog and the appointed evangelist of Social Media Explorer and the legend himself, Jason Falls. How can I help you today?

Wait … before you answer that question, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about the awesomeness of this blog. We’ve got killer posts here that are jaw-dropping in quality. Our content is like none other and written by authors that completely transcend the industry – like Adam what’s-his-face and Ike Spigot (or is it Faucet?).

From topics ranging from social media to social media (and even sometimes social media, just for a change of pace), we tackle the tough questions other blogs are afraid to address. I haven’t visited any of them, but I guarantee you they’re not doing it since that’s what Jason has told me.

While I’m at it, did I mention how uber-brilliant that man is? Even though we’ve never met, spoken to each other before and frankly, I’ve never heard of him before this job opportunity – he retweeted a post of mine yesterday, so he must be insanely smart!

But enough about us, what do you think of Social Media Explorer?

Wait… before you answer that question, let me tell you about the absolute must-read posts in our archives. One is about using social media for a small business. One is about using social media for a big business. One is about using social media to get into everyone else’s business. The rest I’ve never actually read, but I’m sure they’re just as awesome as Jason says they are.

Oh, and don’t let me forget about the mega Twitter contest we have running this weekend. Just retweet this post with the hashtag #desperatepublicity. For each annoying time you do so, we’re giving away 10 copies of some best-selling social media book I’ve never heard of. (once again, it must be good if Jason tells me so).

I’m so pumped and excited to be your brand ambassador!

Feel free to engage in some killer conversation here and ask me any question concerning social media. Of course, my answer will always be “I’ll get back to you on that” since I don’t have a single, solitary clue about the subject – but don’t let that stop you. My job here is to show you that Jason truly cares about his readers while he personally ignores you all.

Don’t worry. I’m just kidding. I’m not the brand advocate for Social Media Explorer.

(and Jason probably couldn’t pay me enough to hold down the vomit it would take me to say nice things about him. Heh.)

But seriously, folks. I’ve seen brands employ “evangelists” and community managers that, between the lines, come across just like this. Spouting off about the brand’s latest and greatest product. Pumping out snippets of postive user reviews. Asking vague probing questions to the community all day and barely ever actually engaging in conversation. Yet in the rare instance when they do respond to inquiries, customers are politely directed to another source and an endless bread trail to find the answer.

It’s as if the “ambassador”, someone who supposedly touts their undying love for the brand, really doesn’t have much of a clue about the business whatsoever. Not its products. Not its offerings. Not its promotions. Seemingly, not any actionable knowledge at all that would be of any use to a customer or prospect.

It’s like they don’t even use the brand’s products themselves. Yet they’re supposed to evangelize others.

Of course, I don’t expect the social media “dude” for Intel to know the intracacies of Nehalem microarchitecture, but if I ask a simple question about one of their processors, I sure hope this annointed ambassador can answer it without batting an eye. If not, what’s the purpose of his/her position other than placing another beauracratic barrier between the brand and its community?

Unfortunately, it seems like many businesses are taking this unknowing approach to social media. Hire a recent college grad. Pay them entry-level compensation. Throw ’em on Twitter and let him/her be the face of the company to the connected online world.

In and of itself, this isn’t a wholly bad strategy. If you plan on treating social media as a “push-only” broadcast as part of the public relations department, there’s no true need for this position to be anything other than logistical. But if the brand gives off the distinct expectation that their presence is a platform for two-way community interaction, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Giving the keys to the castle to someone who doesn’t actively use your own products just defeats the purpose of the “evangelist” position to begin with. Call them a brand marketer. Call them a spokesperson. But don’t make your commuity feel as if this person is just like “one of them” when it’s quite obvious they’re not. Trust me, they will know.

Your customers aren’t stupid. We can tell when you’re full of crap.

If you’re truly looking to establish a successful front-facing evangelist program, empower those from within your own community of customers. Find those who show a remarkable knowledge of your brand and have the natural willingness to pass it along to others.

There’s no better way to evangelize further people than by employing those who are already participating in the public consumer conversation without any compensation, motivation or intervention whatsoever. This should be a requirement of a brand ambassador position, not an added luxury.

And this is why job postings such as this one frustrate the hell out of me…

Wanted: Social Media Brand Evangelist

As our first Social Media Brand Evangelist, you will use your passion for and expertise in social media to continue to grow and extend Xs brand and position as the premier X experience by:

  • Creating and implementing X’s vision and strategy for social media marketing.
  • Evangelizing, articulating and infusing social media best practices throughout the organization.
  • Identifying trends and maintaining relationships with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, key bloggers and others.
  • Developing programs and tactical initiatives that effectively leverage social media and translate into web traffic and transactions.
  • Creating social media content that engages and empowers online audiences to talk about X.

We’re looking for a social media star who has been successful in big brand consumer facing organizations. Must be highly adept at both strategy and execution, have a deep knowledge of the social media landscape, trends, strategies, platforms, applications, tools and best practices as well as a strong foundation in consumer brand marketing. Must be able to exhibit a proven record in leveraging social media to extend consumer brands and drive results along with the communication skills and business acumen to be successful within a highly dynamic organization that takes a fearless approach to winning in an intensely competitive marketplace.

Ok, I think it’s reasonable they’re looking for someone with experience in social media marketing – but where in all of this is the qualification that the candidate currently uses product X? What if they know nothing about the product at all? What if they do, but don’t consider it to be a very good product whatsoever? What if they secretly hate it?

How in the world do you expect someone, albeit skilled in many facets of marketing, to represent your brand in an ambassador role without having that core trust, belief and knowledge of the product inside of him/her? To not even address as one of the fundamental qualifications is downright lunacy.

Evangelism isn’t a job title. It’s not a cookie-cutter skill set your human resources department can categorize in a filing cabinet full of resumes. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that develops organically within people. Find those people. Hire them.

What if you can’t find any of these types of people? Then your brand is in much bigger trouble than you think … and it definitely can’t be solved with a social media marketing initiative.

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About the Author

Jordan Cooper
Jordan Cooper is a professional stand-up comedian with 14 years experience performing in comedy clubs and colleges around the USA. He showcases his sarcastic humor with videos and written rants about blogging, social media & marketing at Not A Pro Blog. Jordan also runs of one of the web's top Football Manager video game blogs and its vibrant forum community of 10,000+ members.
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  • Here’s my problem with the whole brand ambassador thing – In many cases the work the blogger does isn’t equal to the compensation. For example, my sister and I co-own a food blog. My sister was contacted by a brand. They wanted to send her to Seattle to learn to be their brand evangelist. Other than the flight and hotel, there was no other compensation. So my sister loses several days of work, (either no pay or uses vacation days) to sit in on business meetings (for no pay other than a flight and hotel room) to learn to promote said brand for no pay (other than a flight and hotel room.). So now people who may not even care for the brand are all over the web evangelizing said brand simply because they got a flight and hotel room.

    I could go on about brand ambassadorships but I won’t do it here and now. Brands are using bloggers and there are many bloggers who are happy to be used. I can name several bloggers who spend all last year speaking out on behalf of brands. They may have had a conference paid for or received some boxes of spaghetti, but for a year of flying to conferences and talking about spaghetti, they have nothing in the bank to show for it.

    P.s. The bloggers who accept these deals and sponsorships are as much at fault as the brands.

    • Deb, this is exactly the mindset I'm fighting against within the video game community I'm part of. My blog/site were the first in that niche to actively monetize our efforts – and while everyone fully admitted that we produce by far the best content in that niche – we were vilified by community members for not just doing stuff “for the love of it”.

      Sometimes people just don't think of their best interests and are wrapped into the aura that a self-anointed body must hand down permission for you to ask for what you're worth.

  • You're so right about this. I think this is the very reason why the FTC or Federal Trade Commission has come up with a rule on doing product reviews and endorsements online. Where do we draw the line between what's right and what's unethical? I think social media has opened channels for brand advocates for real — then, there are those shady deals, those paid to write something positive about something they know less ( and probably care nothing about ).

  • Katie

    Your site is now featured on!

    Don't forget to stop by, rate your site, and please, tell your friends about

  • Even if brand ambassadors don't tell us the real story, social media is a real good place to know the actual review of anything. Hence it hardly matters even if its an oxymoron!!

  • A satisfied customer is the best brand evangelist.

  • Debbie Ferm

    I could totally be the brand ambassador for Diet Coke or Oreos. I love that the internets lets us do made up jobs!

  • No one has a clue what's going on, at this point. Posting on FB destroys your brand, and “gurus” “evangelists” and “experts” run amock in a BRAND NEW INDUSTRY where things change at the speed of light. Okay maybe speed of sound. Anyhoo…


    Chew on that. You want skepticism in the social media marketplace? You got it.

    • Thanks a lot for the link, Michael. Was a very interesting & engaging read which I agree with a lot of it. Facebook seems to be one of the toughest cookies to crack since the user's expectation in that the native structure/environment isn't prone to many effective community marketing campaigns transposed from other mediums whatsoever. (some of this is almost obviously by design on Facebook's end) But we should learn to work within the system of their platform for our unique solutions, instead of trumpeting out brand successes based on metrics that look good, yet are very shallow at true impact.

      • Thanks so much Jordan! I found you through Mr. Sushi's tweet…. it's phenomenal to unite the people working in, on, around this new medium. It's just moving so fast, I am wildly skeptical. I know there are 500M users, but what are the REAL stats? I am sorry to not trust the company's own data, but they say 50% (250M) are on FB 30 mins or more a day? That's madness. If they are… what in the hell are they doing? It's not meaningful interaction… is it mostly touching up vacation photos and playing games? I read that Zynga article in the SF Weekly, and it sounds like people are burning out on those as well.

        With the massive Spam problem FB is encountering, at this point… I just don't see the mighty strength everyone yammers about. Being #1 by simply being #1 is a short term biz model. =)

        • Michael, I'm with you 100%, because from my experience on the platform, I wonder the same exact thing. If the usage has that much penetration into the daily lives of that many, what the hell are all these people doing then? I don't see it either. When a 0.03% conversion rate on interactions is considered to be exemplary, I would think there seems to be a serious problem.

          Facebook is so focused around a user, it almost intrinsically promotes a “world revolves around me” attitude that you'd typically get from a snotty 15-year old girl. The digital “spam” that has been growing on the network exemplifies this, because it's not necessarily done much by marketers at all, but by the regular damn user base.

          *Everyone* wants to broadcast, no one wants to listen. They don't need to, Facebook makes it easy for them. The thing is, there's no way for *them* to know that the minutiae of their lives isn't even being looked at by their “friends”. Sure, us marketers understand metrics and analyze them, but do the 99.9% of the FB users even consider comparing “like” numbers on updates, CTRs on links, comments on notes/photos, etc?

          Combine this phenomenon with the one-click “like and forget” ease the user base is accustomed to, you can't even be sure if any of your friends, fans, etc. actually has any inkling at all to interact, build a relationship or even if they like you in the first place? When you can click one button to “like”, then one-button to “hide”, what the hell is the purpose of anything then?

          Why am I still FB friends with people from high school I haven't spoken to in 15 years, nor would I really ever consider speaking to now? I don't know, but I am. And I hide them from my stream. Seems completely stupid and contradictory to me, yet I still do it. Millions do it as well. Why?

          • I cannot begin to tell you how calming and lovely this all is. You know when someone says something that is so profoundly on point, and so solid that there is little left to say but “this”?

            Well… “that”.

            Or.. your comments. =) Perfect. At least I am not the only one thinking about it. I have been experimenting a lot with my Facebook account that has over 1000 people… trying to get interaction levels and ratio up, etc. It's basically something you can do in one way: asking questions that are relevant and meaningful to the user base. The most interaction I get is on questions like “do you hide people and brand posts?” etc… and you bet people do. =)

            I just realized Tumblr could be the way that Google is going, instead of an all out social network. It makes much more sense to organize content generators in a meaningful way, from within a community that exists throughout the net…. not stuck in the middle of a non conversation with 450 million spectators (while 10% actually create the content) on a site that is closed and, to be honest, fiercely boring.

            Content generators are the key – the people that produce the info or share the links are the ones who should have the say. When people get sick of FB and jump off, I am sure those 90% participant/lurkers won't know why it's so quiet, and casually drift off to the new thing in search of content to consume.

            Pardon me…. I haven't had coffee and my brain isn't firing on all cylinders.

            All I am saying… love your thoughts. Thank you. =)

  • Jordan: I try not to curse online, but dude, Holy Cripes, this is awesome. What a perfect blend of humor, sarcasm and spot on truth.

    I won't drop the link in here so as to save myself a Jason Falls hand slap but search “social fresh 3 truths” in Google (Instant) and see Truth #1. The others are important too (esp #3), but I think #1 (Industry Knowledge) is the area where most community managers are deficient.

    The one point I'll debate you on (a bit) is the self-company/product/service promotion. It's a constant balancing act. I certainly don't want to come across as “Look at us! We are the best! We are cool! We rock! Buy our stuff! Click our junk! Love us like we love ourselves!” … BUT … part of the gig *is* to evangelize. Believe me, I'd love to be at the point where our fans/clients/advocates are doing all of the evangelizing for us. But that's just not the reality. Often, I have to *start* the conversation or nudge it along a bit. There is certainly a fine line. I'd be horrified if my twitter stream, facebook wall, linkedin group, etc (personal or corp) was all about how awesome I was or my company was. Horrified. Balance.

    I think one of the biggest pros of social media and “brand evangelists” is that they add a bit of “human” to an otherwise boring, stuffy, corporate-like company.

    And. Done. Fingers starting to hurt from typing.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

    • Well, now I'm mad that I have to work to see the link. Relevant links are always welcome.

  • Well there is a reason they're called Evangelists, those that consistently preach are often caught not practicing it. Many brands are attacking social media in a desperate attempt to be hip, if this was the early 90's they'd have skateboard riding mascots spouting terms like “Radical”. Some brands do really well without the need for one on one interaction (Stephen Colbert has a rabid fanbase, but he responds to his community at large, not it's individuals). Provided it isn't forced (as most are as you describe), garishness and the stink of desperation can easily be avoided. I am also glad you brought up the Open-ended Question cliche **cough**Netflix**cough**

  • A-fricken-men. Another facet of this that I see all too often is PR people/brands thinking the only potential brand ambassadors for a company/product should come from a pool of only the top X bloggers, based on “influence” because they have a billion Twitter followers, etc. How passionate can a select handful of people be about that many brands? At this rate, “influencers” are going to end up looking like human NASCARs emblazoned with dozens of logos apiece…but consumers are supposed to believe that we'll all want to buy their product because of these ambassadors sincere love and devotion to the brand?

    Sorry for the tangent. The job description you cite says it all “We're looking for a social media star.” Period. Companies should just drop the BS about “passion” and “evangelism” if what they really want is regular old marketer.

  • ahanelly

    Bravo, Jordan. This post was a breath of fresh air in an industry that is quickly becoming pretty stuffy. Nicely done. I'm with Ike Spigot on the standing ovation.

  • (standing ovation.)

    Jordan, this has been one of my pet peeves for a long time.

    There are tens of thousands of people out there who are doing a great job with social media for their companies. But they are NOT strategic communicators, and they are NOT social media experts.

    They are people who have a passion for what they do, and the technology allows that to reach a wider audience.

    Pluck them out of their passion and plop them down into something else, and there IS NO “social media expertise.” What worked for them in one realm will rarely work in another.

    There is already a dearth of Strategic Communication… compound that with a shortage of those who are competent to practice it AND understand social media. Yet, as you point out, the job descriptions pretend as though there are good strategists hanging by the dozen from the banana rack at the grocery store.

    Maybe that's why I get disgusted at the kumbaya crowd… they really don't get it, and they don't even know that they don't know…

    Nice use of humor, by the way. Maybe I should try that some time… (heh).

    • You're absolutely right, Ike. When the age-old quote of “word of mouth is the best form of advertising” is trumpeted by many businesses looking to increase their reach & sales, it seems as if they don't psychologically understand why this is actually the case.

      If a friend told me “you *must* see this movie!”, I'm infinitely more likely to do so more than a trailer, commercial, kooky contest, free gifts and so forth by the producers. This is because I know he's *actually* seen it, and he wouldn't be telling me about it at all if he wasn't so passionate about the film and genuinely wanting others get that same experience.

      Paying someone who is truly passionate to be this evangelizing influencer, while the need for disclosure is necessary, this indeed is not a problem. It's when this person is just a figurehead to pose as this “cheerleader” for the company and doesn't have much affinity for the product itself, that's where the issue is. Keep them on board, let them work in the marketing department behind-the-scenes, and get someone else for this public-facing job.

      Strategic communication is a skill. You can always teach someone this.
      Authentic passion for a product? You can't teach anyone this at all.

      When the consumer is expecting the latter, yet is met with the former, that's when your brand loses trust.

    • Not sure we'd recognize you if you tried humor. Heh. ;)

  • Wow. Jordan, stop being so shy and tell us what you really think! ;o)

    I'd be interested in seeing how many people quit their social media jobs after reading this? I mean, wow! OR can anyone really afford the high morale road in this horrible economic state we are in? Although I can relate to doing marketing work that has sucked the life out of me for the reasons you state above. (Shame on me)

    I would argue that there are certain industries in which finding a real LOVER of the brand who can actually articulate it well and interact with others who are potential customers is difficult if not impossible. That being said, maybe those awkward lovers of the brand are perfect for advocating the brand for that VERY reason.

    However, I do know of some industries where the customers are normal, the industry is generally mis-trusted and many times hated, but…. Well, there is no but – there is a reason they are hated and they have to change it from the inside-out. Right now many are trying to change from the outside-in which rarely works.

    • Katie, l understand that finding a “real” evangelist for the brand that also has extensive strategic communications skills can sometimes be impossible for a large proportion of industries. The point is that a “brand ambassador” isn't supposed to be a marketer. Sure, they serve some of the same functionalities as one indirectly, but their whole purpose should be that of “one of the people” who builds your brand community organically. How is it possible to do this when that person knows less about the product than most of the “fans” he/she will find to evangelize?


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