I was really excited about #brandchat last week! It was about influence marketing with guest Sam Fiorella. People were having conversations about influencers and advocates, and everything was great!
Then, someone showed up for the sole purpose of promoting their brand. They started saying that brands should never use influencers, and focus on brand advocates instead. His point was that influencers that are not brand advocates can easily turn against the brand, but advocates won’t. This is flawed logic on his part, as advocates that are treated poorly by a brand can easily turn against them (according to research by Oracle, 89% of customers leave brands because of bad customer service). So advocates are not necessarily better than influencers in that regard.
I started having a conversation with this person, and discussed the importance of both influencers and advocates. Both should be used together for a complete influence marketing strategy. Both have their purposes and help with different goals. So we can’t really say that one is better than the other. After about 10 minutes of having this conversation with the person, I left. He was clearly there to promote his advocate software company, and nothing else.
What’s the difference anyways?
Mark Schaffer (@markwschaefer) wrote a great post about the differences between celebrities, influencers, and advocates, and how companies should take a more holistic approach to influence marketing and relationship building. Some of the differences he pointed out between influencers and advocates were the length of the relationships, and the transactions between brands and influencers/advocates. Let’s go into a bit more detail:
Advocates are people who
- Are super-fans of brands (also known in some cases as “brand evangelists”)
- Might be an influencer, but doesn’t have to be
- Promote the brands they love without having to be compensated for it
- Are customers of the brand
- Are already part of the brand’s communities
- Want to develop a long-term relationship with a brand.
Influencers are people who
- Have the power to sway actions
- Have their own community, built on trust
- Are not necessarily part of the brand’s community (in most cases, they aren’t)
- Are not necessarily a brand advocate
- Are content creators, with their own digital properties (i.e. Blog, website, etc.)
- Have limited brand engagement
- Relationships with brands are usually transactional, most often campaign/short-term based, but can be ongoing/long-term.
There are similarities and differences between the two, but both should be used for different purposes.
Why use both?
The benefit of using both influencers and advocates can be great. Advocates will go out of their way to promote the brands they love. They’ll spread positive word of mouth, but they are limited in a certain way: They are already part of a brand’s community and extended reach. By using advocates, you can only raise awareness with consumers that are part of the extended brand community. If you want to go beyond that and reach a new audience that isn’t part of your brand’s extended community, you have to do it through influencers. Check out the graph below:
By using influencers, you extend your reach, community, and brand influence to another audience layer that you cannot reach with brand advocates alone. So to maximize reach, awareness, and influence, you need a mixture of your top brand advocates, and influencers that can actually reach your target market.
When you look at products like InNetwork and SocialChorus, you might think they are competing in the same space (which they are), or do the same thing (which they don’t). One focuses more on influencers, and the other focuses more on advocates. But used together, the two products become complimentary platforms that allow you to build a robust influence marketing strategy with both influencers and advocates. Add in a social CRM like Nimble into your mix to manage long-term relationships, and now you’re talking!
I hope you better understand the differences between advocates and influencers, and that both are necessary in influence marketing depending on your goals.
Do you think I’m right in saying that both are needed? Do you think one is better over the other? Let me know in the comments below!
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