Influencers vs. Brand Advocates: Which is Best for Your Business?

Asen Marketing Asen Marketing

Marketing Tips

Influencer partnerships have become a norm for brands across the spectrum. From beauty and wellness to airlines and real estate, businesses in every field are taking advantage of the customer loyalty influencers can create. 

While that loyalty is powerful, there’s another realm of advocates who can bring you new customers and award your company with a trustworthy reputation: brand advocates.

Brand Advocates vs. Social Media Influencers

Simply put, brand advocacy is positive word-of-mouth. It’s a direct result of your hard work, and it’s spread by your staff, employees, customers, and partners. It’s a type of organic promotion that arises from customers who have been positively impacted by your brand. In other words, good word-of-mouth can now be bought. So, that’s an influencer, right? Not quite…

Brand advocates (aka brand ambassadors) and social media influencers differ in key ways that must be considered when deciding whether one or both are best for your brand. Let’s take a look at a few of these differences.

Brand advocates are not paid professionals. 

These are people who already love your brand and are incentivized to continue interacting with it (through free products, exclusive perks, or private discount codes). They agree to publicly share their experience and refer others to your company. To do so effectively, they may need more guidance on content creation and promotional writing.

Influencers, on the other hand, use their own brand to create content and promote other brands for a living. They have more experience using social media platforms for business purposes, writing (or talking) with compelling language, and treating the transaction like it’s… well, a transaction. Which leads us to a second key difference…

Influencers are motivated by success. 

In general, influencers expect more in return for their time and publicity than brand advocates. Paid partnerships are how they make their living, so they’ll likely cost more to work with, whether in dollars or free product. Your investment may be bigger, but your reach and results will be as well. 

Influencers tend to have multiple partnerships. 

While brand advocates may jump at the opportunity to engage with one specific brand they already love, influencers have the option (and need) to be more selective. 

With multiple partnerships in the works at once, there’s only so much room for them to say yes. Because of this, they’re likely only going to partner with brands that meet their own goals (and rightly so). If your products, services, or company values don’t align with their image, you’re probably not best for their brand… and vice versa!

Influencer pro tip: Having a sizable audience doesn’t automatically make someone influential. Keep an eye on the relationship the influencer has with their audience—do their followers feel like onlookers or friends? Regular, quality engagement with their followers is a crucial factor of social media users’ success as influencers.

Both are trusted by their audience, but for different reasons. 

Trust is at the core of every healthy relationship. So if you don’t choose an advocate or influencer who already has a trustworthy reputation, you’re likely wasting time and resources.

The goal is simple: conversions. For ecommerce brands, this could mean immediate online sales. For brands looking to improve their awareness, it could mean higher social media followings. The ultimate objective is to see results. And with well-established, engaged influencers whose followers already trust their opinions, goals like these aren’t hard to achieve.

Brand advocates, on the other hand, are often perceived as trustworthy because they offer candid opinions on products/services they have personal experience with. These are existing customers, discovered and culled from positive reviews, versus influencers who are incentivized.

Their loyalty comes with varying lifespans.

Let’s talk timelines. You can always choose to let the happy, positively-impacted brand advocate brag on your brand without reward. It’s free and a huge compliment to your value. However, rewarding those advocates with recognition, discounts, or a product/service in exchange for their positive, public feedback will extend the life of their testimonial. 

In general, brand advocacy will almost always have a longer lifespan than influencer promotions because the goodwill resides in the customer experience, rather than a contract. As powerful as it can be, influencer marketing lasts for the agreed upon timeframe. Yes, there’s a chance that the influence they had on their followers will last beyond the campaign end-date. But it’s important to remember that’s the goal—not a guarantee.

What does your brand need to thrive?

As you can see, these two types of brand representatives each come with their own benefits and drawbacks, reach different audiences, and serve similar purposes in unique ways. They’re both credible, popular tools for promoting your brand, and they both hold fantastic opportunities to tell the world about who you are, what you do, and why you deserve its attention.

Curious how influencers or brand advocates could play into your marketing strategy? Want to know which option will best fit your needs? We’re here to help! Start a conversation and we’ll take it from there.

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