There is so much talk today about “INFLUENCERS” and how companies need to build up an army of these people to help promote their brand. Is it real or the right thing to do? Should you invest money into this strategy and marketing tactic? Allow me to offer maybe a different perspective for you to consider before you dive into this approach.
I think it is important to clear up something that is often confused… the difference between an INFLUENCER and an ADVOCATE. Sometimes these words get used interchangeably and to me they are very different people.
An INFLUENCER is someone that helps persuade or influence someone else’s opinion about a company’s product, service, or experience. They may or may not have used the product or service or even had an experience with the company first hand but based on their position in the market their opinion matters more than others. Often times they can also compensated in some way for their opinions and influence over potential customers.
For example, let’s say someone is knowledgeable about a particular product or service based on their research in a particular area. They might write about this item and say that based on their research it appears to be a great product and something they would recommend to others. Because they are respected in their industry, they are viewed as someone who can speak with authority.
There are other examples of influencers as well… such as employees who work for your company. They can say how great it is to work there and how wonderful the people are and what great visionaries the leaders appear to be and so forth. They are “influencing” the audience because they have “insider” information about how things operate. There are other similar examples but they all have the same intent… to influence you in some way so the company stands out from the crowd and you will hopefully purchase their product or service.
An ADVOCATE is quite different. An Advocate is someone who has some personal experience with you, your employees, or your company in some way. They have usually used your product or service and have had an experience with your people or your company. While this isn’t a requirement, it is more often the case.
An ADVOCATE is someone who proactively tells someone else about you, your product or service, your company, and their experience… and they tell them with passion. They usually will emphatically recommend they work with our purchase from your company. They are people who speak with conviction about you, your employees, and your company. They tend to be quite absolute… meaning they simply tell others to work/buy from you without question.
They don’t have to have been a customer to be an Advocate for you. For example, I know of some professionals (attorneys, accountants, real estate, etc.) who I have never worked with because I haven’t had the need. But because I know them personally, have heard from others who have worked with them, and understand the experience they provide, I would emphatically tell others they are the ones to go see if they ever need these services. So I don’t need to have worked with them to be their Advocate and sing their praises… proactively to my friends, connections, or my general audience. I can speak very passionately about who they are and why I highly recommend them to others.
A KEY DIFFERENCE between an Influencer and an Advocate is the DEGREE OF TRUST.
As an ADVOCATE, I have a much higher degree of TRUST for a company than if I am just an INFLUENCER. And similarly, my TRUST as an INFLUENCER is greater than if I didn’t know the company at all or know anything about the experience they offer. In my opinion it is the DEGREE OF TRUST that clearly separates ADVOCATES from INFLUENCERS.
Both can be valuable to the efforts of a company to market and spread information about their BRAND. Both are definitely better than either using traditional marketing or social media to blast out messages to thousands of people that don’t know you or care about you. Blasting lots of messages (Spraying and Praying) is the worst thing you can do today for your brand… it is a key reason for “brand erosion”. Both Influencers and Advocates offer a much more focused and personal approach to help share your message and brand with your desired audience.
I personally believe it is worth the investment to create ADVOCATES… above and beyond anything else… even INFLUENCERS. Advocates carry the highest degree of trust and they also send the potential customer directly to you… because they are a “trusted source”. An Influencer is better to have around than just an audience of “commodity consumers” but they still aren’t as trusted as an Advocate.
ADVOCATES also keep telling people over and over and over again about you… they don’t stop until they stop being an Advocate. They are committed to you and they are passionate about helping you… because they TRUST you. INFLUENCERS not so much… they have the information and justification but generally lack the enthusiasm and passion an Advocate conveys.
Having both is great… but if you only want one strategy, my recommendation is to build an ADVOCATE STRATEGY for your organization. This has many aspects to it with the end goal to provide such an incredible experience that your audience can’t wait to tell others about you. An Advocate is the highest level on the “Relationship Pyramid”… the pinnacle.
Only the very best organizations strive to create an army of Advocates because they know how strongly the can help their company grow. They not only generate more revenue for the company, they also help lower costs because they are essentially helping you to market. This combination increases profitability. Advocates increase your profitability. Influencers generally help increase revenues but have less impact on profitability.
Either way, both INFLUENCERS and ADVOCATES are valuable assets to any organization… far above doing nothing. Building a strategy that helps you create both is one of the best ways to lead your industry and cement your brand.
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We used to get excited about moving our companies from being GOOD to being GREAT… but today, being GREAT isn’t good enough… it’s a commodity. Today, if you aren’t on a path to move your company from being GREAT to being REMARKABLE and MEMORABLE, you don’t get talked about.
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