Influencers Versus Advocates—Who Really Matters?

Tiger Woods endorsed Buick for years. Your friend doesn’t stop talking about Apple’s iPhone. Who has the most influence on your purchase decision, Tiger or your friend? Most likely your friend—do you really think Tiger Woods drives a Buick? I doubt it.

Tiger Woods is an influencer and your friend is an advocate. The terms influencer and advocate are used synonymously, but true influence requires two things: audience and advocacy, according to Jay Baer of Convince & Convert.



Advocates are Trusted 74% More Than Influencers

A Brand Advocate is a highly satisfied customer who recommends a brand or product often, without pay or incentives. Advocates crave engagement from your brand, according to Rob Fuggetta, CEO & Founder of Zuberance, and author of Brand Advocates. They want to be the first to know about a new product or event and you don’t even have to bribe them.

Advocates are motivated to make recommendations because they have had a good experience with a product or service and want to help others. Brand advocacy is word of mouth and word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing, according to McKinsey Quarterly.

Influencers are good for Product Launches

An influencer is a person with a large audience who influences opinions. Bloggers, media outlets and analysts are influencers. Most influencers know they are influencers, have an ego attached and are difficult to get a response from, sometimes.

Influencers have a large following on their social networks and can get a message across to a lot of people. But the longevity of a promotion usually doesn’t last more than a few days.

Typically after one tweet or mention, influencers are off to the next company that’s incentivizing them. This is not to say that influencer programs should be abolished. But this approach is not the one-stop marketing solution that marketers dream of.

Advocacy Drives Longer-Term Business Value

Don’t confuse reach with influence. True influence drives action. 1,000 tweets in one day are huge for a brand. The only problem is that by the next day, the hype is gone.  

Businesses won’t drive long-term impressions with influencer bursts. Advocate programs harness multiple advocates and multiple advocates can drive the impressions of one influencer, over time.

“Move away from the idea of finding influentials. It is neither cost-effective nor efficient,” says Paul Adams in his book, Grouped.  “We are all influential in different contexts. Find the everyday people passionate about what your brand does and market to them. They will go on to tell their friends.” True advocacy cannot be purchased or manufactured. It can only be earned. But what is an advocate worth?

Leading brand advocacy platform, Zuberance, measures and tracks recommendations and can calculate your brand’s Return on Advocates (ROA). According to Zuberance, on average, an advocate’s recommendation brings three new customers to a brand. Identify 10,000 advocates and reach 30,000 new customers.

Influencers Are Fast, Advocates Take Time

The more we educate each other on the differences between influencers and advocates, the better we can market and create campaigns. Marketers should use influencers for awareness and advocates to drive sales. Therefore, build an advocacy program first.