5 Key Observations at the Intersection of Influencer and Advocate Marketing

Five key distinctions between influencer marketing and advocate marketing

At the intersection of influencer outreach and advocacy

In just a few short hours, we will be conducting a webinar “At the Intersection of Influence and Advocacy” featuring our CEO, Mark Organ and Zachary Reiss-Davis, analyst for Forrester Research (and a pretty influential guy himself). So, it makes sense to better define these terms and share thoughts on how marketers can utilize each to more strategically get their message into the marketplace.  On first glance, influence marketing and advocate marketing may seem interchangeable: they both consist of getting people to spread the word about your product or service to their networks – usually online – in the hope that even more people will be inspired to buy or use it.

There are some big differences between Influencers and Advocates and how they market your brand, however – important distinctions to understand before you launch into a program with one or the other (or both, as is sometimes the case).

What’s the difference between an Influencer and an Advocate?

An Influencer is someone who, either through their professional or personal brand, has a large following or audience on their blog and/or social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. They’re often focused on a single niche based on their interests or area of expertise, such as fashion, parenting, marketing, etc. According to the Technorati Media 2013 Digital Influence Report, nearly half of Influencers are paid for sponsored posts or articles.

On the other hand, an Advocate is a customer who loves a product or service so much that they spread the word about it typically without receiving anything in return (although some companies have started to recognize their Advocates). Advocates are raving fans who may or may not have a large following or “influence” within a certain community, and they may not even blog or use social media. They are identified by how likely they are to recommend a brand and how passionate they are about that brand.

While Advocates and Influencers are different, it’s worth mentioning that they’re not mutually exclusive. An Influencer can be an Advocate and an Advocate can have influence – that’s probably why they’re often thought to be one and the same. But the distinctions between the two become even more evident upon examining the motivation behind and impact of influencer outreach and advocate marketing:

What are the goals of the marketing program?

Influencer marketing: Influencers are fantastic for generating big buzz around a single launch or campaign. By accessing the large following of an Influencer (or many Influencers), marketers can attract a ton of eyeballs and measure the immediate results of that blog or social media post through impressions, engagement, clicks, etc.

Advocate marketing: Think longer term. Advocates aren’t just going to check out a brand’s latest product once, post about it once and then forget about it – they’re going to continue telling people in their network about that brand in formal and informal, public and private ways as long as they continue to feel positively about it.

Advocates may attract fewer eyeballs and the results of their efforts can be harder to measure quantitatively, but they have the power to generate what Michael Brito, author and Senior Vice President of Social Business Strategy at Edelman Digital, refers to as emotional equity – the strong emotional connection between a brand and its customers.

What’s the motivation behind the marketing?

Influence marketing: Technorati reports that while most Influencers (70%) receive just under 10 opportunities to work with brands per week, more than one quarter of them (27%) receive between 10 and 99 requests. In a single week. Competition for their attention is stiff and that’s why, according to the same report, Influencers are most interested in receiving a first look at new products, features or releases, being paid to create custom content, or getting prizes and samples to give away to their audience. Essentially, they’re motivated by boosting their own audience or popularity – and their followers know it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, and Influencers’ opinions are typically still highly valued as experts in their space.

Advocate marketing: Advocates are motivated by the genuine desire to inform people about how great a product or service is – they’ll recommend, defend, promote and share because they truly believe in it and they think it will help the people in their network. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, the vast majority of consumers (92%) around the world say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all else, and online consumer reviews are the second-most trusted source of information, with 70% of people saying they trust these types of messages. Meanwhile, only 47% of consumers said they trust branded sponsorships.

How do you measure the results?

Influence marketing: Awareness. More people will know about a brand thanks to Influencers. Unfortunately, it’s often unclear exactly how much of an Influencer’s audience are your potential customers and whether they’ll be inspired to take action as a result of the Influencer’s post.
Advocate marketing: Action, interaction and business impact. The high level of trust that Advocates inspire in their peers result in the desire to learn more about and engage with a brand. They’re starting and joining conversations about that brand, inviting others to those conversations, and referring leads to that business that typically know more about the company and its product or service, and what it can do for them. Marketers should measure their advocate marketing efforts against hard business objectives:  the number of testimonials, reviews and impressions and the traffic, leads, opportunities and revenue those assets drive.

So which group should I focus on?

Without a doubt, both influencers and advocates play a key role in any marketing plan.  In fact, you need to have both and deploy them as a powerful one-two punch. Influencer outreach allows you to gain exposure to a market very quickly and is great as a fast brand building initiative. However, this comes at a cost and there are no guarantees that you will generate returns from your partnership. Additionally, the effect of the influencer slowly dissipates over time. Advocates on the other hand, are a long term grass roots strategy. The work put into advocacy takes a lot pf time and effort, but the costs associated are usually less than working with an influencer. It takes time for the sentiment and passion to spread but when it does it’s powerful.

The Advocate Marketing PlaybookDownload The Advocate Marketing Playbook to access your “getting started” worksheet

The Advocate Marketing Playbook provides marketers with a blueprint from which to build and manage a successful advocate marketing program; it’s a detailed “how-to” guide based on proven best practices.

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