I came across the infograph below on Pinterest and it did make me stop and think; Influencers V’s Brand Advocates – Which works successfully?
From a PR perspective, PR pros rely heavily on Word Of Mouth (WOM), primarily through the use of influencers and brand advocates. WOM has long since been agreed as the key to great marketing, after all, how will anyone know your great if nobody knows about you?
So what is the difference between an influencer and a brand advocate?
Influencers are already popular within their target demographic, e.g. Debbie Leonard of Closer 2 Fabulous.
Brand Advocates are consumers who are fans of a company’s product or service and are willing to promote or defend it e.g. You or me that loves that Toblerone so much that we won’t have a bad word said about it!
According to Michael Brito of Britopian:
Here are a few things we know about influencers and advocates:
They are not the same and require separate strategic frameworks.
Influencers usually require an incentive before they engage. Advocates just love the brand and will pretty much do anything you ask.
Influencers are effective for short-term campaigns, product launches and events; advocates drive long-term business value.
Many companies today spend their time and dollars trying to find and engage with influencers. Advocates are often ignored.
Social media has made it a whole lot easier for brand advocates to be heard and now Facebook even has a recommendations feature on business pages. With sites like Yelp, Qype, Trip Advisor etc. it’s just so easy for customers to give honest accounts of their experiences with brands, not to mention find reviews others have written.
Targeting influencers is hugely popular in PR and for good reason. If I have a great new beauty product, of course I want beauty bloggers to talk about it. I want people to talk about it. But is that all it is? Just Talk?
Brand Advocates as consumers who are already fans of the product do not require investment by brands in order to promote them, for example, like a blogger or journalist might in order to write about products. However brand advocates do not always have the public following that influencers do. While journalists have a code of ethics and can be held accountable for what they write, this isn’t so true of bloggers. Bloggers can write pretty much anything so long as it’s ‘their‘ opinion. A lot of bloggers I’ve come across don’t even have contact details on their blogs so if they can something wrong, you won’t be able to contact them should you need to give them the correct info.
Targeting influencers is all very well and good if you have a new product you want people to talk about but that product also needs to be able to stand on its own two feet. More importantly, the brand behind the product need to pay great attention to the customer experience when buying the product and the customer service they experience after purchase. Targeting influencers is a great way to encourage potential consumers to interact with your brand or to build an audience on Facebook or Twitter. So many competitions run by brands through influencers these days are to drive ‘likes’ or ‘follows’. Yes it’s great to have an influencer endorse your product but its even better to build your own audience through your own social media channels.
According to the infograph, consumers tend to trust brand advocates slightly more than influencers. This doesn’t really surprise me. From a PR perspective, I have targeted influencers in the past on behalf of clients and I have been targeted as a blogger. The attention lavished on influencers who blog or write about said products does not always (hardly ever!) equal the attention lavished on potential customer in the buying process. PR companies do their job – looking after media in an effort to get positive reviews of their clients product but what happens to the experience when the PR agency are taken out of the equation?
In my opinion, Brand Advocates and Influencers are both necessary to establish a brands product. Influencers are needed to introduce the product while Advocates lend legitimacy towards the company and buying experience encouraging potential leads.
The marketing mix is obviously so much bigger than the debate of Influencers v’s Brand Advocates and many companies have successfully managed without both; but they are used so much more now in PR & Marketing than in past generations due in part, I believe, to the internet which now gives every one of us a voice and the opportunity to have our say.
Love Niamh x