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Brand Advocates vs Influencers: How to Shape Your Marketing Strategy

If you are looking for ways to boost your brand awareness, reach and engagement, you might be wondering whether you should invest in brand advocates or paid influencers. Both of these groups of people can help you promote your products or services, but they have different roles, benefits and challenges. In this post, we will explain the difference between brand advocates and influencers, and why you need both for your marketing strategy.

Who are Brand Advocates?

Brand advocates are brand loyalists who openly promote brands they love and publicly defend the brands just because they love the brand and its products. They are usually customers or employees who have had positive experiences with your brand and are willing to share them with their friends, family and online networks. Brand advocates do not expect any compensation or incentive for their advocacy, they do it out of genuine passion and love for the brand. 

What are the Benefits of Using Brand Advocates for Marketing?

Brand advocates can help you build trust, loyalty and credibility for your brand. According to a Nielsen report, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while only 18% trust online ads. Brand advocates can provide authentic and honest feedback about your products or services, which can influence the purchasing decisions of their peers. Brand advocates can also help you generate user-generated content (UGC), such as reviews, testimonials, photos or videos, that can showcase your brand value and increase your social proof. UGC can also boost your SEO ranking, as it can increase your website traffic and engagement.

What are the Challenges of Using Brand Advocates?

One of the main challenges of using brand advocates for marketing is finding them and activating them. You need to identify who are your most satisfied and loyal customers or employees, and reach out to them to encourage them to share their stories and opinions about your brand. You also need to provide them with tools and platforms to make their advocacy easy and fun, such as hashtags, contests, rewards or social media groups. You also need to monitor their activity and measure their impact on your brand performance. The easiest way to find the brand advocates in Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube is to follow the Tags. The brand advocates will tag your company and product name in most of their brand related posts and all you have to do is engage with the positive review posters.

Brand Advocates Believes in Unpaid Ethical Endorsements

Brand advocates will endorse your brand out of love and trust as long as the brand performs as per their expectation levels, and brands don't try to mislead them with false and misleading advertising. Brand advocates will be brand loyalists as long as the brand doesn't engage in illegal wrongdoings and other fraudulent activities. The brand advocates will even go to the extent of defending your brand in public spaces if they believe that wrong is being done to your brand by external factors and agencies.

How to Engage Brand Advocates?

The easiest way to find brand advocates is via the brand tags that they attach to their posts. Marketers should identify the brand advocates and start engaging with them via special product sampling invites, product launch invites, early product testers invite. Giving them discounted or free products to review is also another way to engage the brand advocates. Brand advocates need no payments to speak for your brand and are a trusted source of information among their followers and friends and family.

Who are Influencers?

Influencers are individuals who have a large follower base in social media like Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat and mostly engage with brands via paid campaigns. There are primarily two types of Influencers, the Mainstream Media Celebrities like Jenifer Lopez or Tom Cruise, and Social Media Celebrities who have managed to gather a huge follower base creating unique content for their followers. So, these Social Media Celebrities are usually experts, bloggers, speakers, authors, fashion trend setters, product reviewers, fancy lifestyle endorsers, who have established online presence and authority in a specific niche, such as fashion, beauty, travel, gourmet etc. Influencers partner with brands normally under paid contracts to create sponsored content that showcases their products or services to their audience. Influencers typically charge a fee for their collaboration, depending on their reach, engagement and reputation. Influencers will endorse any brand as long as they find a match between their content and the product you offer.

What are the Benefits of Using Influencers for Marketing?

Influencers can help you increase your brand awareness, reach and exposure as they can even have a couple of million followers. They can introduce your brand to new and relevant audiences who might not be aware of your products or services otherwise. Influencers can also help you create high-quality and engaging content that can attract and retain your target customers. Influencers can also help you boost your brand image and reputation, as they can endorse your products or services as experts or trendsetters in their field.

What are the Challenges of Using Influencers?

One of the main challenges of influencers is finding the right ones for your brand goals and budget. You need to research who are the influencers who have the most influence and relevance in your niche, and who share your brand values and vision. Do note, unlike brand advocates who tag your brand the influencers are not tagging your brand at all for you to easily find them. You have to research your consumer target group and see which influencers are most actively engaging with your target group of consumers. After finding them, you need to proactively negotiate with them the terms and conditions of your partnership, such as the deliverables, deadlines and payment methods. You also need to track their performance and measure their return on investment (ROI).

Mainstream Media Celebrities vs Social Media Celebrities

Mainstream media celebrities are exceptionally expensive to rope in for a campaign and as they are just celebrities, they normally don't have a vertical base of dedicated followers. So, their follower base is mixed. So, a product and celebrity matching can result in mismatching. For small brands it’s preferable to opt for Social Media Celebrities as they resonate to a particular lifestyle or trend so they have a vertical interest follower base which when matched rightly with your product will resonate well. Social media celebrities and influencers are much cheaper to engage with and should be the choice of smaller companies and brands to engage with over mainstream media celebrities and influencers. 

Why Do You Need Both Brand Advocates and Influencers?

Brand advocates and influencers are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary. They both coexist in this world and both can speak for your brand. So effectively, they can both help you achieve different objectives for your marketing strategy, depending on the stage of the customer journey you are targeting for your customers to be. For example:

- If you want to create awareness for a new product launch, you might want to partner with influencers who can reach a large and relevant audience with their sponsored posts.

- If you want to generate interest and consideration for your existing products or services, you might want to leverage brand advocates who can provide authentic and trustworthy recommendations to their peers.

- If you want to drive action and conversion for your products or services, you might want to use both influencers and brand advocates who can create a sense of urgency and social proof with their content.

Effectively, at the end of the day, the consumers actually know that Influencers are doing paid promotion and are recommending products as they are getting paid for them. The consumers also know that brand advocates are advocating for brands as they believe the products and services are of superior quality than that of other brands. So henceforth it's very important for corporations to focus more on providing value to brand advocates and engage them in events and promotions and launches and co create content with them. The majority of people trust brand advocates they know within their friends and family and the ones they follow over the influencers they follow.

Therefore, you need brand advocates to promote trust in your products and you need influencers to promote reach for your products and you can combine them both to have an effective marketing mix of brand advocates and influencers.

If you want hands on help in crafting a Marketing Plan and Growth Hack your Startup get in touch with Aditya Basu (Publisher of Startup Lessons) for One-to-One Startup Building Advisory. With Aditya’s help, you can ensure that your team is well-suited for success.

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Content Code: AHI
Article Editor: Aditya Basu

Brand Advocates vs Influencers: How to Shape Your Marketing Strategy by Startup Lessons is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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