Advocates are fans of your company who spread the word about your products. Influencers are fans of your company who spread the word about your products. It’s understandable that you may be wondering what the difference is between influencer vs. advocate marketing! But the two words aren’t interchangeable: Advocates and influencers have different positions, and deserve different treatment. Let’s dig deeper.
Advocates tend to be brand-specific ambassadors – in other words, they’re only interested in talking about your products, because your products are just that good. This is a very common form of marketing in the LBM industries, and it’s worked well for decades.
Advocates are primarily defined by their reach and perspective. They tend to be customers and often friends who are talking about your products as a buyer, which means it’s easy for other consumers to relate to them. Their reach tends to be limited, because they usually only speak to other friends or people who ask their advice, but those people are more likely to be your target audience.
Leveraging advocates usually requires a strong focus on customer service. Staying in contact with your customers, asking them about their experiences, and offering specific deals or customization services are good ways to create advocates. They can then produce testimonials for you to use in your marketing materials, endorsements for specific products, and social media shares for topics that are particularly interesting to advocates.
Influencers are more professional brand ambassadors who tend to be active throughout the industry instead of for just one company. They aren’t usually marketers – if anything, they tend to be analysts or consultants – but they can offer support for specific products or brands based on what interests them. Influencers are a rising trend in the marketing world, fueled primarily by new communication methods such as social media and blogs, where one person can quickly reach a large audience.
While advocates tend to have a small audience, influencers have a much longer reach. These are thought leaders that often attract hundreds or thousands of viewers. If they are convinced to share news about your brand, that’s a lot of new eyes that will turn toward your business. However, the nature of that audience is more difficult to control with influencers: Not all of those followers may be interested in what you’re offering.
Like advocates, you can form a long-term relationship with influencers. However, since they may not be customers (while advocates always are), influencers shouldn’t be treated the same way. A focus on sharing information and news, responding to thought leadership, and creating a guest blogging relationship can lead to influencer benefits.
Why We Aren’t Picking a Winner
We started by talking about how the lines between influencer vs. advocate marketing are blurring a bit, and we want to stress that. Choosing one or the other isn’t a choice you should make: Advocates are slowly taking on more features of influencers, and influencers are picking up more cues from experienced advocates. It’s all a process, and it’s more important for you to know which of your brand ambassadors is an advocate and which is an influencer than to take sides.
However, we will point out that influencer marketing is receiving a big jump in investment in the marketing world. One reason is their reach – pound for pound, they tend to be worth more than advocates when it comes to getting new business, at least for now. Another reason is changing demographics: Young people rising up through the ranks tend to be social media savvy and more associated with influencers than advocates.