Tackling The Influencers vs. Brand Advocates Debate

Many organizations are adding influencer marketing initiatives into their marketing toolkits.

Why?

Because the belief is influencers, with their huge networks, can get people to visit a website and convert them into a sale. That’s typically not how it works.

Influencers are driven by growing their audience. They are not driven by promoting a brand or its products. And, as such, influencers drive awareness, not specific actions or more importantly, behaviors.

Jay Baer wrote an excellent post about this, and Zuberance and Convince & Convert put together a nice infographic a few years ago on the differences between influencers and brand advocates.

influencersvsbrandadvocates1TapInfluence and Influitive even collaborated on an informative ebook to discuss the differences between influencers and brand advocates.

Three things that stand out for me in the infographic are consumer trust – 18% trust influencers, while 92% trust brand advocates –  duration of loyalty – short term for influencers vs. long term for brand advocates, and motivation – influencers are focused on growing their audience while advocates are focused on helping those that they know.

Brand Advocates are typically a satisfied employee, customer, or vendor and they recommend because they had a great experience and they want to help others have that same great experience.

Brand advocates love you, are loyal to you and want to help you help others. Not only do they humanize your brand, they can usually help you do a much better job at customer conversion than any marketing tactic you could conceive. Advocates can drive behaviors.

I googled “influence” and the definition I was given said, “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” It was right there. Behavior. 

The million dollar question is

How do we, as marketers, influence a customer or potential customer’s behavior?

The answer to the Influencer vs. Brand Advocate debate is not to pick one over the other. Rather, the better plan is to merge the two.

To do this, we need to define what effective influencer marketing should look like.

 

An Influencer Marketing strategy should have clear-cut goals and objectives.

Why is influencer marketing important to you? How will it impact the customer experience and your corporate strategy?

Influencer Marketing must align with (1) what your customers expect and what would enhance their experience, and (2) your corporate strategy.

If you want to do influencer marketing just to do it, or because everyone else you know is doing it, then you will fall flat and be unsuccessful.

Influencer Marketing is still in its infancy and there are still debates going on about what influencer marketing is and what it entails. To illustrate, a spirited discussion took place on an influencer marketing panel at #DGS16 (DigitalGrowthSummit) last month in San Francisco.

Be clear and realistic about what influencer marketing is and what you expect to get out of it. Really laser-focus in on its value. Be realistic on context and content.

Thus, it is paramount to create an entire influencer marketing strategy. Be detailed and specific. Answer the what’s, why’s, and how’s.

 

To have an effective influencer marketing program, brands must choose influencers wisely.

 

 

This was the key theme of an influencer marketing panel happening at #SocialTools16 in San Jose, CA in October.

Influencer Marketing is all about relationships.

This fact was re-emphasized at #DigitalGrowthSummit:

 

However, it has to be the right relationships.

This is where merging influencer marketing with brand advocacy can generate strong results.

Rather than using a plethora of social influence tools right out of the gate to find influencers that you have no relationship with, look at your brand advocates – your employees, customers, vendors or fans that you do have relationships with. And don’t forget journalists, bloggers and analysts that you already have relationships with. These folks already love you.

Determine which of these brand advocates strongly align with your corporate strategy. Then, determine their influence. I love tools such as Brand24, Mention, Followerwonk and BuzzSumo to identify and measure influencers.  Implementing influencer marketing this way is more effective. And, it guards against false positives that can result from inaccurate social proofing.

Include your advocate-influencers in your influencer marketing plan.

An entire strategy is vital to effective advocate-influencer marketing. However, don’t create it in a  vacuum.

While it is important to understand the value an influencer marketing program would be for your organization, it is equally important to understand the value your influencer marketing program would be to influencers.

Answer such questions as:  What new audiences can you help them reach? What purpose or causes inspire both your community and theirs? Who is speaking and writing about topics that align with your main focus areas?

Successful influencer marketing is a two-way street.

In fact, Traackr‘s CEO, Pierre-Loïc Assayag, has suggested that it might be time to re-name influencer marketing to “influencer relations”.  He also points out that approaching influential brand detractors can often yield more than simply working with influential advocates.

These views align very well to the crux of this post – that there should be a merging of advocate and influencer marketing so that advocate-influencers are born.

To help you, consider establishing an advocate-influencer council.

Get your advocate-influencer team in a room to collaborate on strategy development. This is a great way to build even stronger relationships with your advocate-influencers.

Create the strategy and associated tactics together with your advocate-influencers. They will get a viewpoint of your inner workings, and you’ll get to walk in their shoes. This will help with the requests you make of the influencers. They’ll understand the context of the ask – and how it fits on a micro and macro level with your operation, and how they will benefit.

Also, be open to new ideas and out-of-the-box execution.

And remember the 4 C’s of communications – be clear, concise, consistent and always be building community.

Join us on January 5, when #AdvoChat tackles influencer marketing and brand advocacy and how the two can work together.

 

 

 

 

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