Brand advocates, ambassadors and micro-influencers have become popular for this reason. They provide an inherent human touch in ways other channels fall short, promoting your product into customer news feeds rather than on a native banner to the right.
However, brand advocates, ambassadors, micro-influencers are often (and mistakenly) used interchangeably. Not all word-of-mouth is created equal. In a world where social capital is the new currency, the loyal and trusted brand advocate may not be influential in topics relevant to your brand to convert new customers. In contrast, the brand ambassador may have a greater reach, but may not be loyal to your brand, and therefore may appear less trustworthy in his or her promotion. Micro-influencers are the only form of human-to-human marketing that combines brand loyalty, trustworthiness and relevant influence to drive bottom-line performance – think of them as the best of both worlds.
Below, we break down each category, how they compare, and which one might work best for your 2016 marketing strategy.
Brand advocates, also known as super fans, brand enthusiasts or brand loyalists, are your customers who are most likely to naturally drive positive word-of-mouth about your brand, with no monetary or VIP incentives. Advocates are everyday consumers – they don’t necessarily have expertise in the industry or maintain a formal business relationship with the brand.
Brand advocates are awesome because they’re trustworthy. No one is paying them to speak highly of your brand, they just want to because they love it. As a result, consumers believe their recommendations: 32% of online consumers trust a stranger more than a brand. However, brand advocates are not necessarily influential in topics relevant to your brand to drive significant engagement. It’s great to share the brand love, but the impact of that love makes all the difference: your advocates could have zero street cred in your industry, or may have no sway with their friends on social, neither of which does much to get you new customers.
A brand ambassador is hired to promote your brand in exchange for monetary or product compensation, based on the size of their audience and potential reach on social networks. As such, they are usually contracted to help increase brand awareness. Brand ambassadors should align with your brand identity in some way, from appearance and demeanor, to company values, ethics, or industry knowledge.
It’s true that brand ambassadors can do a good job of spreading the word about your brand, but their worth may be skin deep. Yes, a brand ambassador is compensated to talk about your product on social channels or share content about your brand, but this is no guarantee that they are able to get their audience to act beyond a superficial ‘like,’ or that they are capable of moving product. A brand ambassador is essentially a billboard on a main highway – a lot of impressions, but potentially very little actual action by those who see it.
Micro-Influencers: The Sweet Spot Between Brand Advocates and Ambassadors
A micro-influencer is an everyday consumer with an average of 500 to 5,000 followers on social media who is determined by his or her engaged reach around topics relevant to your brand. Engaged reach is essentially the line in the sand that indicates the impact of influence – compared to brand ambassadors and advocates, micro-influencers engage 25% of their social following, on average. Micro-influencers’ ability to engage and drive conversion among their friends is what sets them apart from other human-to-human marketing strategies.
The simplest way of understanding the core differences between these influencers is by comparing the value they deliver. Advocates are valued for their loyalty and overall lifetime customer value. Ambassadors are valued for impressions, positioned to spread awareness of your brand. Micro-influencers are valued for conversions, able to drive their friends through the purchase funnel for you.