Influencer Marketing and Customer advocacy are closely related tactics for word-of-mouth marketing.
Generally speaking, influencer marketing involves contracting with paid influencers to share or create sponsored content on behalf of the contracting brand. Customer Advocacy programs may utilize many similar tactics, but rely on surfacing and activating unpaid, highly influential existing customers of that brand.
Professional Influencers can be an effective way to reach new customers through the creation of sponsored brand content to their followers, with greater relevance and credibility than traditional advertising.
Customer Advocacy programs give you greater scale, and unparalleled authenticity, reaching more people through friends they trust, who genuinely love your brand.
Your Authentic Customers who spread word-of-mouth to people they know, and create content that reaches others engaged with or researching your brand.
Pros: Most authentic, credible source who can speak passionately and knowledgeably about your brand, products, and values. They reach their own friends, who really trust them. The ability for much greater scale by activating a larger base.
Cons: Some have very good reach, but they aren’t celebrities, and individually they can’t equal the reach of top tier influencers. You can shape their advocacy, but they aren’t compensated and don’t work on spec. Without a coordinated program, individual outreach can be very incremental, and hit-or-miss.
Professionals who create and broadcast brand content to their own audiences.
Pros: Top tier have great reach, and can add credibility to products that they’re established experts in. Many can create high quality content. Engagements are easy and familiar.
Cons: Semi-pro influencers might have a feed cluttered with sponsored posts, diminishing their authenticity. They might endorse several competitive brands. They’ll be required to disclose their sponsored nature and other FTC limitations. Their engagement may be lower, especially for top tier. Expensive one-off engagements. Limited scale in finding and vetting individual advocates.
We define these not as lower-tier, handpicked influencers, but as micro-influencer 'hub' models, where rentable opt-in bases log-in to see offers and exchange engagement for incentives.
Pros: A high number of engagements for a reasonable price.
Cons: No real value. 100% made up of contest addicts and freebie hunters who’ll create a dozen social media posts a day about competing brands to earn entries to win a giftcard. No real reach because their followers are other freebie hunters or bots. Their spammy engagement damages the brands they’re associated with.
Below we've listed key attributes to compare when considering if and how to utilize customer advocates or influencers, or both, in your word-of-mouth programming.
|Authenticity||Motivated by love of your brand||Paid or incentivized|
|One-to-One||A handpicked group of dozens||A handpicked group of a few|
|One-to-Many||A broad base of hundreds or thousands pf handraisers||None|
|Reach||A slight edge to advocacy programs. Professional Influencers will have much larger follower counts each, but advocacy programs draw on a bigger group and higher organic visibility.|
|Engagement||5%-7% of followers will engage||0.5%-1.5% of followers will engage|
|Platforms||Both strategies can be implemented across nearly any platform, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. Strategy should fit that platform.|
|Audience||Friends and Family||Followers|
|Ongoing Value||Seeking a closer connection to a brand they love||Campaign-to-Campaign|
|Directive||Advocates are intrinsically on-brand, and can be directed and guided, but unlike Influencers aren't contracted, and their engagement can't be as explicitly directed.|
|Competitive Confusion||Advocates have an authentic preference for your brand.||Influencers focus on product categories, and unless contractually prohibited, are likely to endorse competing brands.|