You’ve probably heard the term influencer marketing. It’s drawn the eye of marketers and business owners the world over. But, much like many other social trends in today’s ever-evolving social media landscape, it can be tricky to stay on top of the latest and greatest best practices for this emergent tactic.
Obstacles like endless platform algorithm updates and growing competition for share-of-voice send brands and companies searching for effective ways to increase their reach of message, create audience engagement, and stay top-of-mind with current and potential customers. That’s where influencer marketing comes in.
Influence is a powerful tool. Think of that one family member who keeps insisting you try their favorite sushi restaurant, or how your child begs for the latest toy because all their friends have it. Somehow, it seems a little easier to spend time or money on something when someone we know or admire stands behind it.
That’s the premise behind influencer marketing, and brands and companies can benefit greatly by identifying and fostering relationships with three types of people who can help inspire others to use their products or services — advocates, ambassadors, and influencers.
Though all three terms — advocate, ambassador, and influencer — are often mistakenly used interchangeably within the marketing industry, each is unique. Each also has an important role to play in helping brands or businesses build a successful influencer marketing strategy. By understanding the unique capabilities of each, it’s possible for a business to take their marketing to the next level.
Advocates can best be described as highly satisfied “customers” (either external or internal). They generally operate independently of the brand, defend the brand (online or off), and share positive word-of-mouth advertising without expecting anything in return. The advocate-brand relationship is dependent on the advocate’s interest and loyalty to the brand.
Advocates are not formally compensated by a brand or company for their advocacy, and for that reason are seen by most consumers as truly authentic in their influence. Advocates help brands grow through their shared knowledge of products or services and with their brand messaging amplification.
Ambassadors are extreme brand lovers. They operate in partnership with brands or companies and are therefore viewed by consumers as representatives of those same entities. The ambassador-brand relationship is usually dependent on pre-determined marketing goals.
Ambassadors are usually compensated in some way (stipends, preferential treatment, free products, special event access, etc.), and for that reason should always disclose their relationship with the brand or company to their audience. Ambassadors help brands grow through their insight, enthusiasm, and audience/community engagement.
True, compensated influencers can fall into many categories: celebrities, bloggers, DJs, or experts on a certain topic or industry. They operate under contract to present the brand or company to their audience or network. The influencer-brand relationship is legally binding, often short-term, and based on specific marketing goals.
Because they are compensated, influencers must always disclose their relationship to a brand or company (per FTC guidelines) by using #ad or #sponsored in any online content. Consumers see them as paid endorsers. Compensated influencers help grow brand audiences and inspire action through awareness of products and services.
It may seem that all influencers are created equal on the surface. Once you dig a bit deeper, however, it becomes clear that advocates, ambassadors, and influencers all play very specific roles in a brand or company’s marketing strategy. They affect their audiences in different ways, and ensuring that your marketing mix makes use of each in the most strategic way is critical to the success of your influencer marketing campaign.