Decoding the Influencer: brand ambassador, advocates and influencers

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[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]

There are many different kinds of influencers, and they go by many different names: bloggers, vloggers, social media mavens, advocates, ambassadors – the list goes on. But for as many monikers these influencers use, these distinctions exist for a reason. Many people get confused when the term “influencer marketing” gets thrown around – they equate it with celebrity endorsements, but online. But Influence has many faces, so it’s increasingly important to define what roles the various kinds of influencers play in a marketing campaign.

So here they are:

Brand ambassador

A brand ambassador is paid to endorse brands, and are usually celebrities or famous people that hold a certain level of influence. These brand ambassadors engage in more traditional media events like TV appearances or newspaper interviews – the PR 1.0 mediums. Brand ambassadors turn heads towards whichever brand or cause they are paid to talk about, but the ambassador’s following is loyal to the celebrity, and not necessarily the brand.

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We see brand ambassadors every day without really noticing it. Taylor Swift is one prime example of a brand ambassador in action. She has recently been featured prominently in Apple Music advertisements – of course these ads come on the coattails of months – even years of controversy that Taylor stirred up against free music streaming services like Spotify. So when Apple was able to “convince” Taylor to release her album “1989” on Apple Music, her ambassadorship brought credibility to a fledgling music service with huge competition from Pandora, Spotify, and Tidal.   

Companies sign celebrities to be brand ambassadors for set periods of time, which is useful when a brand wants to capitalize on a star’s popularity to develop their brand image and get instant, massive media exposure. Brand ambassadors are costly and more difficult to attain than other variety of public influencer.

Influencers

Now an influencer doesn’t need to be famous to be effective. Our influencers are bloggers and social media influencers – people with great influence over people without being necessarily famous. Influencers establish credibility with their audience because of their industry expertise. From car gurus to stylists and photographers, anybody who provides quality information or content to a large audience can become an influencer.

Influencers have very specific sway with their audiences, and are able to endorse products and work for compensation – but many will only align themselves with companies with shared values. Their devoted communities seek out the influencer’s expertise and value their opinion, which makes an influencer a great conduit for spreading a brand message.

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An overview of Estelle’s sponsored post for Oppo

A good example of an influencer in action is Estelle, a French fashion blogger whose site Estelleblogmode.com receives 20K monthly views (and has a highly engaged community). Estelle partnered with Oppo – a smartphone brand looking to publicize their phone with a state-of-the-art selfie camera. Oppo’s aim was to reach young fashionable women to purchase the phone and organically spread brand awareness. Estelle reaches and resonates with the young and fashionable, so a partnership with Oppo was a perfect fit. She promoted Oppo’s new phone in an article, and spoke highly of Oppo in her social media activity.

Influencers are perfect for reaching highly engaged niche communities to generate leads. Typical methods for generating leads include providing an influencer with a special coupon or promotional code to track an influencer’s campaign effectiveness. Influencers come in many forms, but when selected correctly, they can have tremendous impact on a brand’s marketing efforts.

Brand advocates

Brand advocates are your most loyal customers. This doesn’t mean that an influencer or brand ambassador can’t be a loyal customer, but a true brand advocate will be self driven to share your brand or product. A brand advocate loves the brand or product, and feel the need to share with their friends – which is great, since 92% of customers trust friends for recommendations.

These brand advocates are 50% more likely to create content that influences a purchase, and are seen as 70% more likely to be seen as reliable sources. Even if a brand advocate has a small personal following, their enthusiasm for a can be infectious. A prime example of brand advocates done right comes from Starbucks through their MyStarbucksIdea.com. The company invites its customers to share ideas and new drink recipes. This innovation makes customers feel valued, and generates free publicity for Starbucks.

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Brand advocates are inexpensive to harness, and help create a highly engaged community of brand evangelists. They may or may not have large social followings, but their enthusiasm for your brand can be contagious, and help convert friends. Having a ravenous following isn’t a one-stop set-up, but when accomplished, it can be a low-cost, high-yield marketing resources.

Finding the right combination

Influencers are the perfect bridge between brand ambassador and advocates, since they have  big communities and huge community engagement. As Jay Baer said: “True influence requires two things: audience and advocacy.” Moreover, the rise of digital media has cut into the brand ambassador’s role as arbiter of taste, since common people with large followings can easily become influencers with much more direct impact with their community.

Ultimately, influencers must also be brand advocates. But it can be difficult to find the best big Influencers – they aren’t always the right choice if they don’t have a real interest in your brand or product (regardless of the money). In a world of internet thought leadership and Key Opinion leaders, the internet influencer has tremendous impact.

So when you look for an influencer, look to those with devoted followings. Large communities don’t mean as much if they don’t act. Influencers are real and reliable sources of information to their community, and growing a long-lasting relationship with the best audience for your brand can make a tremendous impact in your brand’s future.

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