All About Brand Advocates and Social Marketing
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I’ve written about the topic of Influencers and Advocates previously, but after reading Jay Baer’s recent post on “Why Online Influencer Outreach is Overrated,” (I 100% agree!) and since advocacy is truly becoming top of mind for marketers, I thought I’d throw in another two cents.

Let’s back up and first look at what defines an Advocate and an Influencer. I’ve heard many people interchangeably use these terms when in fact, the two groups have very different characteristics and motivations as you can see from the chart below.

(Click here to enlarge)

 

In general, Influencers are defined by the size of their audience (Twitter followers, blog subscribers, etc) whereas Advocates are defined by their genuine satisfaction with specific brands and products. Now, this is not to say that an Influencer cannot be an authentic Advocate for your brand. In fact, when this happens (rarely), you’ve hit the jackpot!

Influencer Outreach vs Advocacy Marketing

The challenge of an Influencer outreach strategy is that Influencers have their own agenda. Out of the all of the companies throwing free trials or perks at them, they’ll choose to promote a company/product if it aligns with their goal: to build their personal brand. By getting an Influencer to tweet or blog about them, brands are “renting the conversation” as Edelman Digital’s Michael Brito says. And unfortunately, it’s often a very short-term lease. After one tweet or mention in a blog post, they’re on to the next company or product that’s showing them love.

The beauty of a brand advocacy strategy is that it’s mutually beneficial; you want to drive awareness about your products (and ultimately sales), and your Advocates are more than willing to help you out. As our CEO, Rob Fuggetta, puts it, “Advocates crave engagement from your brand.” They want to be the first to know about a new product feature or event you’re hosting, and you don’t have to give them a free trial or even a free key chain to tell their networks about it. Advocates are there to promote, support, and even defend your brand.

Now, I’m not saying that all influencer outreach strategies should be left behind because there is certainly room for both an influencer and advocacy strategy in a brand’s overall marketing mix. But brands need to consider the outcome of each strategy. Jay Baer put it perfectly: “True influence drives action.” So what will drive action for your brand? A short-term rented conversation or a long-term authentic relationship with your Advocates?

What are your thoughts on Influencers and Advocates? We’d love to hear to hear your comments below!

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

I tweet, therefore I am.
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6 Comments

6 Responses to Short-Term Lease vs Long-Term Relationship: The Difference Between Influencers & Advocates

  1. Jay Baer says:

    Great job Cara. LOVE the table. Really, really good. Thanks for pointing out the trust gap between influencers and advocates. I’m pissed that I forgot to talk about that. Hugely important!

    Would you guys want to partner on a simple infographic to blow that table out a bit? We could run it here and on C&C. Let me know.

    Thanks for the kind words, and the great post!
    jay

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! We’re definitely on the same page when it comes to the benefits of engaging Influencers vs. Advocates! We’d love to partner on an infographic. I’ll follow up via email.

      Cheers,

      Cara

  2. David Fine says:

    Good stuff, Cara. But I really disagree with this idea of influencers – “Influencers are defined by the size of their audience (Twitter followers, blog subscribers, etc).” If a company is reaching out to people simply because they have large Twitter followings, of course the company will be disappointed with the results of its “influencer marketing” efforts. There are countless posts on this topic. Here’s one from a while back that got a lot of attention: http://mashable.com/2011/02/01/influencer-marketing/

    This doesn’t take away from the fact, however, that there can be differences between influencers and advocates.

    Thanks!

    • Hi David,

      Thank you for your input! While the definition of an Influencer does go beyond simply how large their audience is (such as relevancy like the Mashable article includes), the main reason as to why brands approach this segment is because of the size of their audience. For example, if two people have blogs about cars, and one has 20,000 subscribers, and the other has 20, I doubt Chevy or BMW would include the second blogger in their Influencer outreach strategy. I agree that this motive to include influencers in their outreach strategy is flawed. Thus, a shift of focus onto their authentic Advocates can often yield bigger/better results for brands :)

      Thanks again!

      Cara

  3. Great article! I agree with you that the buzz and focus on “influencers” is encouraging marketers to focus on the wrong thing. While they may get a message out to a lot of people, they are less likely to drive trial and purchase. Brand owners need to focus on identifying and encouraging “Brand Advocates”. Once identified they also need less effort to keep them active ironically too! I have blogged in this topic, and added this article to the suggested reading list too, at http://www.garybembridge.com/2012/05/influencers-versus-advocates-which-is.html

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