Are Brand Evangelist Worth Millions?

Have you seen that Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) is now the Chief Evangelist at Canva? If you don’t know who Guy is, he became famous as the Chief Evangelist of Apple back in the 80’s and has written over a dozen books. This got me thinking: What’s a brand evangelist really worth? Is this something that other companies should be considering?

I contemplated it this morning while nursing my Cuban coffee, and I’ve concluded that it should definitely be on your radar (I’ll list the reasons why in a moment). This approach can work for companies of all sizes and budgets. The trick is finding the right brand evangelist for your company and working with them on an ongoing basis to help grow your brand. They can develop content, spread it socially, and give your company greater credibility.

I’ve worked with countless types of companies on content marketing; most often, they want to have content created by ghostwriters in the CEOs voice. However, many times CEOs have zero to no social media presence. A 2012 study by indicated that only 7.6% of CEOs were on Facebook. Even worse, only 1.8% was actually using Twitter, and 70% had no social media presence at all.

Now, I would implore these CEOs to get with the program and engage more socially. Another study by BRANDFog suggests that more than 82% of respondents are likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and employees engage in social media. The study also reports that 77% of respondents are likely or much more willing to buy from a company whose mission and values are defined through leadership involvement in social media.

These CEOs must become more social. But building a large social media presence takes lots of time and energy, sometimes years or even decades. That’s where a brand evangelist can come in. See, brand evangelists have already spent years developing their fanbase and marketing platform. Plugging into their networks gives your company instant credibility, reach, and voice. This can help you get noticed quickly and give you instant distribution

Here are the main benefits of working with a brand evangelist:


Here’s one that even a CFO can understand. Brand evangelists have incredible networks on social media. A single tweet can bring in hundreds to thousands of clicks to your website. Even people with smaller networks might be a great fit if they’re in your specific niche. Take someone like Nathan Sawaya (@NathanSawaya), an artist that uses LEGOs as his medium. His work is pretty incredible, but he only has about 7,000 fans on Twitter. He might not have the biggest network around, but don’t you think clicks from his social network might be more valuable to LEGO than clicks from Google Adwords?

Let’s look at the cost of content distribution on today’s major content distribution platforms. Getting just 1,000 clicks from the top content platforms will cost you anywhere from $250 to $4000. Now, remember that these clicks are a one-time thing. Once you spend your money here, you’ll never see it again (a little different from brand evangelist traffic, as I’ll explain below). Also, remember that these prices are for typical consumer articles; if you’re a B2B player, count on these prices to be higher—much higher.

Cost of the Top Content Distribution Platforms

Outbrain CPC: .25-.35¢
Taboola CPC: .25-.75¢
Nativo CPM: $10-$18
Facebook CPC: .50-.60¢
Twitter CPC: .50-.55¢
nRelate CPC: .25-.30¢
Disqus CPC: .25-.30¢
Yahoo CPC: .20-.30¢
LinkedIn CPC: $4

Source: Contently

Working to develop content with brand evangelists that have strong networks can give you easy to track clicks and instant ROI.


Another great difference between getting traffic from social media through a brand evangelist and paying for it is the SEO benefit. Listen to what Matt Cutts from Google had to say about links from social media:

“Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results.”

Google doesn’t give these pages any special treatment or weigh them too differently from other web pages, but it is still a form of link building. This will have a long-lasting effect on your website and, over time, will improve your overall results.

Trust & Influence

This is a big one. See, I didn’t know about Canva until Guy started to talk about it. After seeing a few posts he put up on Google Plus, I checked it out and created an account. Now, I’ve been an avid Photoshop user for over 20 years, so I’m not going to start using it, but I did tell my wife (@MicroSteph) about it and she is using it. I knew that if Guy was talking about Canva, it was at least worth checking out because he generally works with great companies. Trust is a precious thing, and I knew he wouldn’t work with them unless they were something good.

What are the costs?

One thing that my clients always want to know when I suggest they work with a brand evangelist is what the typical costs are. Well, this can be affected by many factors. Tim Ferris says he gets “500 to 1,000 emails per day,” so you can bet that someone like him would be very selective about working with new companies, and he wouldn’t come cheap. On the other end of the spectrum are smaller niche players that can work with your brand to both develop new content and promote it.

Say you find an avid blogger you like that covers the specific niche you’re in and has a strong social following of loyal fans. He might try to charge you for both the writing and distribution. Let’s take the Editorial Freelancers Association’s Editorial Rates of 26¢-50¢/word as a starting point (these rates seem just a tad high, since my company charges less). Maybe you can make a deal for them to write four articles a month for you at around 800 words an article for $832.

On top of that, you would have to pay for the expected distribution and promotion. I would clearly lay this out in a contract and tell them where, when, and how many times at minimum you expect them to share. For example: You will share this once on Facebook and Google Plus on the publication date and 3-4 times on Twitter over the course of the month. Putting a price on this part is a little tricky, but I would figure out what you’re paying on a CPC basis on other networks and ask for some basic metrics from your potential brand evangelist of what their typical shares get in clicks, reshares, and more.

Lastly, there are some intangible benefits that are hard to quantify but that can be very valuable. Think about what someone can do for your brand and its growth. I found an interesting article entitled, “Why Every Company Needs a Robert Scoble” that you might want to check out to see what a Brand Evangelist did on a large scale for RackSpace.

Both large and small companies can benefit from working with well-known writers, bloggers, influencers, authors, and more. Some of my examples dealt with very large companies, but this model can also work for companies with more modest budgets. It all comes down to finding the right partner that is willing to work with you in a long-term relationship. You even might want to develop a dream team of people to really supercharge your exposure.

Update: I wrote this article over the weekend and Canva announced it raises $3.6 million in its latest funding round.  Do you think that proves that brand evangelist can be worth millions?  Thoughts and comments below:



Showing 2 comments
  • Melinda Crow

    Great stuff! There are soooo many CEOs that need to hear this. Thanks, Rick.

  • Neena

    Hi Rick,

    Your example about Nathan Sawaya is a good one.

    But the thing to consider is whether Nathan’s followers are truly interested in LEGO or in art.

    If the goal is to attract new customers he might be the right guy, but if the goal is to inspire existing customers to buy and create more – he would be perfect.

    Like you said it is about finding the right partner. And taking it one step further – it is about finding the right partner with the right audience.

    Excellent article!

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