Advocates vs Influencers

Tuesday’s #techchat topic was “Leveraging Social Media for Influencers and Customer Advocacy in the Enterprise,” run by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs with special guest, Michael Brito (VP of Social Media at Edelman Digital.) Part of the discussion addressed the difference between Brand Advocates and influencers, which Micheal does an excellent job explaining in his latest blog post. He says that influencers “may have a crush on you or find your product useful; but they are too busy being influencers – tweeting, blogging, and recording webinars to really care. Of course they love getting free trials and new products before they hit the market; and very rarely will they say no when you offer to send them that new shiny object.”

Influencers have their own agenda. When your company is the hot new brand on the block, they want to be associated with you; that is, until the next hot new brand moves in and shortly after, you’re left scratching your head wondering what happened to the influencer’s new born enthusiasm for your brand.

Michael goes on to say, “the reality is that with many influencer programs, brands are just renting the conversation; and unfortunately the conversation isn’t always authentic. If it was, you wouldn’t have to keep sending them products to fuel their conversation.”

This is why brands need to shift their focus onto their authentic evangelists, their Brand Advocates. Unlike influencers, Advocates love your brand unconditionally. OK, don’t take that completely literally. But what I am trying to say is that, for the most part, Advocates will stick by your side even when you're not the hot brand at the moment or come out with a product that maybe you shouldn’t have.

I always like to think about Advocacy in relation to music, because most of the “brands” I advocate are music artists. I am a huge Advocate of B.O.B. (He’s a Hip Hop artist, and if you don’t know of him, check him out.) There are definitely a few tracks of his that I’m not really into, but that doesn’t make me any less of an Advocate; and I am sure the same goes for all of you Pearl Jam, Tim McGraw, and Madonna Advocates out there.

While we’re on the topic of differentiating Advocates from other segments, it’s important to point out that loyal customers are not always Advocates. Think about the airline that you normally fly. Are you an advocate of them? Probably not. I have been an AT&T customer since the Nokia snake-playing days, but I am far from an Advocate.

Similarly, Advocates are not equal to Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Again, these people may have a “crush” on you, or are interested enough to simply click a “Like” or “Follow” button. But that doesn’t mean they would recommend, write a review, share offers, or do anything on behalf of your brand voluntarily.

*Note: There can be (and surely are) Advocates within each of these segments (influencers, loyal customers, fans, and followers.) In fact, it is very likely that Advocates will be a fan of you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, and continuously purchase your products. It is the Advocates within these segments that need to be recognized and treated like VIPs, because that’s what they are.

Make sure to tune in to #techchat everyday Tuesday at 5pm PST.

Don't forget to register for our upcoming webinar with WOMMA, "Turning Facebook Fans into Brand Advocates" on Sept 22 at 9 AM PST.