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.
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!