Social Media Influencers Vs Brand Advocates

Influencer marketing is a key element of many modern brands social media strategy, in fact 84% of marketers plan on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign during the next 12 months. The modern day equivalent of a celebrity endorsement, influencer marketing in essence falls somewhere between a product shout out and an official testimonial by an ‘influential’ person. Influencer marketing is invaluable for driving engagement and bringing in new audiences, and studies show that 81% of companies that have deployed an influencer campaign were very satisfied with the results. However, it doesn’t come without it’s challenges.

It’s important not to confuse audience with influence - having a lot of Twitter, Instagram or SnapChat followers doesn’t necessarily give the individual the power to drive action. Whilst effective at driving chatter and therefore awareness, it is more difficult to prove that influencer marketing is driving actual sales. Savvy marketers are now starting to turn to Brand Advocates to generate not just buzz but revenue.

But what’s the difference between Social Media Influencers and Brand Advocates, what are their characteristics and motivations and what opportunities do they each present?

Paid Vs Passion
A Brand Advocate is an individual who is truly invested in a brand and who naturally champions the brand anyway. This could be a highly-satisfied customer, a partner or an employee who pro-actively recommends a brand without being paid because they passionately believe in the product or service. 

In contrast a Social Media Influencer is a person (usually an expert, blogger or celebrity) who has a large online following and a loyal audience in a particular niche, who is paid by a brand to promote particular products across their social channels. Although it is in the interest of both the influencer and the brand to be aligned, the influencer more often than not won’t genuinely use the product they’re being paid to promote; it’s purely a commercial arrangement.

Reach Vs Trust
Influencers can help expand a brand’s reach to people who have not heard of the brand because of their large number of followers. Unfortunately, influencers don’t always have very strong ties with these large audiences, so it’s difficult to estimate how much of an impact their endorsement actually has. So while an influencer’s reach is wider, their impact can be smaller. 

Advocates generally have smaller audiences and often it’s just made up of family, friends and peers, so their sphere of influence is smaller. But it’s also more powerful; 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends over all other forms of advertising, whereas only 18% trust influencers. These numbers hold true in the business world as well: according to LinkedIn, 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a personal referral.

Whereas Influencer Marketing campaigns generally involve one or a small numbers of influencers, when it comes to Advocate Marketing the key is to mobilise Advocates at scale; hundreds of Advocates are required, all working in their own small sphere, but at scale they flood the marketplace with their passion and enthusiasm for your brand. 

Quick Win V Long Term Loyalty
Like with PPC, due to the nature of how Social Media Influencers work, when you stop paying, they stop promoting; the work they do is transient and only has short term influence. Unless you have very big pockets your brand will soon drop off the bottom of their social feeds. 

In contrast because Advocates genuinely believe in a brand and are motivated by a desire to share it with others, they will willingly create authentic, positive reviews and recommend the brand through word-of-mouth on an ongoing basis, amplifying the brand’s content, referring new leads, accelerating the sales pipeline and generating hard revenue. 

As an agency we advocate earned over paid marketing so our natural stance is to favour Advocate Marketing. We firmly believe that the authenticity and genuine enthusiasm Advocates have for a brand can’t be beat and that Advocates can and should be an incredibly powerful marketing force for any organisation.

Initially some brands find that identifying, mobilising, tracking and rewarding advocates at scale can be challenging, but with a formal Advocate Marketing strategy and with the help of an Advocate Marketing platform it doesn’t have to be. 

Speak to us about our Advocate Marketing platform and how we are successfully helping brands and businesses leverage the power of Advocate Marketing.

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Lauren Swarbrick
Written By:
Lauren Swarbrick
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