As major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest make strides in enabling both big and small businesses, the power and value of your customers’ social capital has never been more crucial for brand success. Combined with the sheer number of active users on each platform and the weight of each user’s influence upon their network’s buying decisions, brands are realizing that a more “social” approach is no longer a luxury, but a requirement. As a result, marketing agencies are beginning to recognize the importance of social influencers and are seeking ways to incorporate them into marketing tactics.
However, as noted by our post on why marketers need to utilize influence marketing, traditional tactics lack the proper systems to measure the return on their investments in social media. As a result, it also becomes difficult to understand the full value of a customer, who has the potential to be a major influencer within their own network.
Because of the lack in quantifiable return, too many companies still turn to traditional brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors are comparable to the foot soldiers of a company’s marketing team–they work on a more immersed level with the public to get the brand’s messaging out.
In this respect, brand ambassadors and social influencers seem to be the same thing. Is there a difference?
Long Term vs. Short Term
A brand’s relationship with its ambassadors only exists for the amount of time the ambassador is in contract with the brand. Whether it’s 6 weeks or 6 months, the relationship is a finite one between employer and employee. Unless a company continuously allots a significant portion of it budget to maintain ambassadors, the relationship is not a sustainable one.
An everyday influencer may be a customer of the brand or someone involved in brand-related communities. These individuals are not on contract and advocate for the brand with no incentives. With this as currency, they can “afford” to stay on board long after the duration of a marketing campaign. Any money spent to build and nurture these relationships is an added bonus to this sustainable relationship.
By entering a paid relationship, brand ambassadors have goals to meet in order to receive compensation. Whether that’s handing out X amount of flyers per trade-show or gathering Y number of names at a convention, any brand awareness activities ambassadors partake in has a price label assigned by the employer.
Everyday influencers spread awareness with no expectations for reward or return. Their main motivation in making a recommendation is to genuinely help a friend or family member–this is why 92% of consumers trust a recommendation from a friend or family member.
(While argument can be made that brand ambassadors are also capable of making recommendations to those they know, FTC regulations require full disclosure of their affiliation with said brand. With this in mind, the recommendation no longer carries the same genuine intentions.)
Brand ambassadors, just like any one of a business’s regular employees, may simply carry out their tasks because it’s a job. Their interests won’t necessarily align with their employer’s, but with money as a motivator, passion becomes less of a driving factor. Brands do not have complete control over an ambassador’s lack of sentiment.
Influencers regularly advocate a brand with no expectation of compensation, do so out of their personal experience with the company. Whether it’s the product or the company itself, when influencers advocate, they do so out of support and belief.
After the duration of a contract, brand ambassadors are free to represent any other brand they so choose, regardless of their prior employer’s image. Imagine a number of ambassadors for an organic, non-GMO vegetarian product then representing an international burger chain (yikes!). Whether or not a business likes it, loyalty speaks volumes about both brand and product.
Influencers, especially with today’s younger and more connected generation, are a skeptical and tough crowd to win. They are enabled by plenty of resources to conduct their own research even before a purchase. As much as this makes it difficult for brands to gain trust, it also makes these customers more loyal because they can own up to every step that led to trying and believing in the quality of a product. Every recommendation they make, therefore becomes a reflection of their own reputation.
The first step towards harnessing the social capital of your customers is by understanding what influencer marketing can offer for your brand. Download “The State of Influencer Marketing” today and get started:Download eBook