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The Difference Between An Influencer and a Brand Advocate

Written by John Maver  ()
on March 30, 2015 ·

In previous posts, we have talked about the importance of Brand Advocacy and the 3 types of Brand Advocates. However, there is often some confusion when people hear the term "Influencer" about whether it means the same thing as a Brand Advocate. Let's explore the differences.

What are Influencers?

An Influencer is someone who is able to reach out to their audience and potentially sway them into performing some action. We usually make the assumption that their audience is large and that their ability to sway is strong. 

Typical examples would be popular bloggers or popular social media celebrities on Twitter/Vine/YouTube/etc. They are identified by web traffic, subscriber counts, Klout scores, and general "awareness". 

There are several problems with courting influencers:

  1. Influencers may not actually have influence. Just because they have a large follower count, doesn't mean that they have the ability to sway them to action.
  2. Influencers have different motivations. They want to engage and grow their audiences. Trying to push a product or service that doesn't help with those goals may actually cause the friction with their fans. 
  3. Influencers may have a cost. There may be some sponsorship or incentives required to work with an Influencer.
  4. Influencers probably don't really care. How likely is it that they would actually use your product in real life? Does it really even mesh with their online persona? Bad fits can reduce influence even further.

So, using Influencers MAY be a good strategy for driving exposure, but are generally not going to be very effective in getting people to act on your brand.

How are Brand Advocates Different?

An Advocate is someone who has a positive personal relationship with a brand. They are real customers who want to share their experience with those around them. They exist in a spectrum of Brand Advocacy that goes from Casual Recommender to Raving Fan.

Everyone is a Brand Advocate for something - a favorite restaurant, a great website, an excellent book, an amazing app. 

Advocates have the opposite of Influencers:

  1. Advocates have influence. A recommendation from a friend is consistently shown to have a significant effect on purchasing behavior.
  2. Advocates are motivated. Their goals align with the brand - more customer gives them validation that they made a smart purchase.
  3. Advocates are generally free. Recommendations happen naturally, and while you might create incentives in larger programs, the real key is helping Advocates share easily.
  4. Advocates really do care. If they don't, they aren't an Advocate. It can be easy to find Advocates just by watching who is already recommending your product.

The Takeaway

Influencers make more sense when trying to build awareness, but come with a price. Start instead by building an Advocacy Program that identifies, engages, and motivates the multitudes that already love your product to help you build and grow your brand.


Have you tried Influencer outreach? What did you find were the requirements for engagement? Have you instead started to connect with your Advocates?

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Topics: Brand Advocacy

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