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Influencers vs. Advocates: Knowing Your Brand Goal
Ekaterina Walter / ClickZ / July 17, 2013
There is an ongoing debate over which is the best group of people to use to spread the message of your brand: influencers or advocates. Let’s have a look at both groups to see why you would work with them and the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Influencers are people who have a wide reach and many followers. They may be celebrities or they may be influential figures in their industries: experts, bloggers, columnists, or authors. They may be several of these things at once. The main reason that a company would use influencers is because of their reach: that they can convey a message to many people in a short period of time, with the hope that such a “celebrity” endorsement will encourage more people to buy a product or use a service. Influencers are usually paid for their promotion and are often used as a short-term face of a brand.
Advocates don’t need to be paid to talk about your brand: they tell all their friends how your product revolutionized their life, made it easier, or how they just love going into your store because of a great environment or fantastic service. If advocates follow their favorite brands online, they will share their posts and comment on photos because they want to be a part of the conversation. Advocates stay loyal to the brands they love and will sign up to get information about an upcoming product because they are excited about its release. They might not have the reach of the influencers, but their network unmistakably knows about their passion for their favorite brands and they have high influence within their own communities.
Knowing Your Goal
If your brand wants to convey the message to the new audiences, which group do they choose to engage: influencers or advocates? This is the question we consistently get from our clients. Seemingly an easy one to answer, there are a number of factors we recommend them to consider. Before committing to a certain marketing strategy, think hard about the objectives you are trying to achieve. Here are just some of the considerations:
- Short term versus long term. Influencers have access to a large number of followers. If your goal is high volume of short-term buzz, you might choose an influencer to reach the maximum number of people in the shortest time. But if your goal is to build positive word-of-mouth that lasts for years, then you might want to build your own dedicated communities/networks of advocates who will continue to talk about your brand long after everyone has forgotten about your latest marketing campaign.