I am probably not alone in this, but I used to use the terms Influencers and Advocates interchangeably. Until I saw this great infographic from Zuberance.com, which I believe encapsulates the difference quite well.  Influencers, typically celebrities or bloggers, can drive awareness in the short-term with their large audiences and followers, but since their endorsement oftentimes requires a financial incentive of some type, they are not unequivocally viewed as a trusted advisor.  Advocates are typically satisfied customers, looking to assist their friends and require little incentive for an endorsement of your company.  As a result, they provide a degree of trust that can drive sales.  They just might not provide a large following.

To further demonstrate, below is a tweet from a well-known celebrity with a large number of followers:

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And a tweet from a collegue and advocate of Equator Coffees and Teas:

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I’m now aware of Fake Bake United’s spray tanning services and I might consider using them at some point (I do live in Seattle, after all).  However, I will certainly be trying Equator’s coffee after reading my colleague, Malcolm’s endorsement.

Although there is no shortage of debate about the use of Influencers vs Brand Advocates within marketing, general consensus seems to be that both have their place in our marketing strategies. Influencers can be beneficial with more of the top-funnel, brand awareness building activities and Brand Advocates can assist more with bottom-funnel activities, or purchase decisions.  In other words, Influencers can get your product/service on the list and Brand Advocates can get you on the short list.  And while discovering the right Influencers/Advocates and determining the best way to engage with them can sometimes be difficult, tapping into their power can pay off significantly.  

Hypatia Research explores the ROI of these types of pull-marketing activities in their report on Customer Centricity.  The results point to money well-spent.  Over 55% of marketing executives have reported a greater than 10% increase in ROI from pull or influencers/advocate initiatives.  Compare that to push initiatives – where only 22% of marketing executives have reported similar results. So depending on which area of the buyer’s journey you wish to focus on – whether its awareness  or validation – marketing initiatives involving Influencers and Advocates can provide a strong bang for your buck.   To learn more about the survey results, you can read the full Hypatia report here.

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Lana Smith works in Content Marketing at SAP and writes about Sales, Customer Service and Marketing topics.  She is always looking for good coffee recommendations.

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