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Brand Influencers vs Advocates

Brand perception on social media is driving many companies to look for key individuals, or “influencers” to aid in the dispersion of marketing content. A debate exists as to whether these social personas are able to go beyond creating brand awareness to actually influence purchasing decisions. We’re putting brand influencers up against advocates in order to determine who has the best chance of impacting buyer behaviour.

Brand Influencers: Our social feeds are filled with posts using #ad or #sponsored. Brands and their marketing teams work hard to identify key “brand influencers” - individuals with large social media followings hired by marketers to promote brand content. Ultimately, the idea is that these people are followed by those that are similar to them (in interests, behaviours, etc.), and can act as a catalyst inciting a new purchasing decision.

Brand Advocates: Unlike their paid counterparts, brand advocates are customers or employees of an organization that take it upon themselves to promote that brand. Advocates do this for a variety of reasons including a positive customer experience, workplace satisfaction, or because of a strong connection with the brand itself. As you can imagine, advocates can create amazing marketing for brands, as content is shared by people who genuinely love your brand.

 Breaking it Down

Check out the following infographic from Zuberance and Convince & Convert on some of the key differences between the two groups. These three stand out:

  • Trust: only 18% of consumers trust a brand influencer, while a whopping 92% of consumers trust advocates. That’s a staggering difference. Nine times out of 10, consumers know when a post on social is an ad, and will not engage with the post because they feel it’s disingenuous. Advocates, on the other hand, are posting for one reason - they LOVE the brand!
  • Motivation: influencers are building a business with their social media platform. Their main goal is to gather more followers in order to attract additional sponsorships. In contrast, advocates spread the word about brands to help their friends make purchasing decisions.
  • Advocacy and Loyalty: for influencers, when the money stops, the show is over. Advocates are invested in your brand, and their loyalty will stand the test of time.

While brand influencers may have large followings, trust is a critical issue that cannot be ignored. Influencers may post your brand’s content, but they’re not invested in whether or not that piece of marketing is a success. Content shared through these influencers will create awareness, but there is no evidence to suggest that influencers can deliver on conversion.

To increase the effectiveness of influencer marketing, look first to individuals who are already your advocates. These individuals will have large social followings, and have indicated a clear passion for your brand through their own social channels. Encourage these individuals to continue sharing their love for your brand with monetary or non-monetary rewards.

Want to Drive More Engagement? Focus on Building a Social Community:

Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. offer passionate customers a place to interact with one another, and can often influence purchasing decisions. Brands are challenged with the opportunity to influence those interactions in order to gather consumer insights, drive engagement, and ultimately create more brand advocates.

Use your social community as an active component of your customer care strategy; here’s how:

  • Be Visible: make sure your customers are aware that your social channels exist! Remind customers to share their experiences by having your representatives remind them after an interaction, or provide links to your Facebook and Twitter after an online purchase. These simple steps can drive more traffic to your social channels. 
  • Empower your Employees: make social a company-wide initiative by encouraging employees to interact with your brand online. Establish clear guidelines that will allow employees to share your content with their own social communities. 
  • Put Procedures in Place: When customers engage with brands online, they want a quick answer. Make sure your team has a system in place for interacting with customers. Create clear goals for response times, and carefully curate your social voice.

Engaging your social communities will provide your company with another way to care for your customers, and will help you to ensure that with each interaction, you are helping to foster a long and mutually satisfying relationship.

Related: The Case For Employee Advocacy on Social Media

Adopted from: Sue Duris

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