Brand influencers, ambassadors and advocates are everywhere these days. Think of bloggers, social media mavens and celebrities active in both of those two activities. Apparently these efforts work: A recent study by Schlesinger Associates showed that 81 percent of companies that had deployed an influencer campaign were very satisfied with the results; however, one of the biggest challenges was influencer selection.
This isn’t surprising, as mass confusion prevails in today’s market around the different terms being used to describe influencers. I recently read an article in which a statement was made that the difference among influencers, ambassadors and advocates is just a “function of the brand.” This is simply not true. There are definitive differences, and it’s important to understand them.
Influencer, blogger, brand ambassador, advocate: These terms are used interchangeably, but there are vast differences in the influence they wield, what they will do for a brand and what they get paid. I find that when I explain these differences, baseball references can help.
“Farm teams” are bloggers looking to break into the influencer major league. They have influence in their smaller social spheres. “Major leaguers” are influencers who have made it and can hit home runs. They have a proven track record for creating engagement. “All-star” teams are celebrities and those few among all influencers who attain web-celeb status. Finally, “advocates” and “fans” are the ones sitting in the stadium rooting for the brand because they love the brand. But let’s break things down further.
Different standards determine these individuals’ influence, from web-only to celebrity status. Influencers cross multiple platforms and increasingly require a paid arrangement to do business. They:
Brand ambassadors are influencers hired by brands for long-term relationships. They differ from influencers, who might be used only for a short-term campaign. They are in effect paid spokespeople for the brand.
Bloggers may be considered influencers, depending on their engagement levels. They begin their blogs based on passions and often build followings that validate them as influencers.
Advocates are super fans and brand loyalists who engage with the brand because they truly love it and will take action if asked. They may or may not have a sphere of influence themselves.
Fans like the brand. They don’t necessarily activate on social platforms. They:
The first step in influencer selection begins by understanding the major differences in what each of these influential categories will do for your brand. Brands should also develop a clear strategy, objectives and predetermined key performance indicators (KPIs). Having this mapped out will infinitely help you select your influencer.
Influencer marketing should be a part of brands’ marketing mixes, as these individuals are invaluable for driving engagement and bringing in new audiences. To this end, it is essential to do your homework to select the most effective influencers for your brand.