Influencers and Advocates Are Synonymous, Right? No. Let Me Explain

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Lance Concannon Lance Concannon, Marketing Director, Europe

I love marketing, but sometimes I despise the way marketers speak. There are so many terms and insider vernacular that we sometimes don’t make sense, even to ourselves. It’s so bad that I’ve instituted a game on our social team here at Sysomos: whenever someone says a buzzword on a conference call, you have to take a shot…of whatever it is you have in front of you at the time. Sometimes it’s coffee, sometimes it’s water,  sometimes it’s tea – but late in the afternoon on a Friday, it will more likely be a beer. Yay, Friday!

Let’s examine a marketing buzzword: Influencers. What’s an ‘influencer’? People like Ellen Degeneres, Oprah Winfrey and Kobe Bryant are influential, right? Yes. They are.


But today, we’re going to focus on online influencers like Pete Halvorsen, Felicia Romero, and Juan Carlos Bagnell. These individuals are examples of conversation leaders who have gained authority and ‘expert status’ to their audiences.

An influencer is a quasi-celebrity who has built up an audience of thousands (sometimes it’s 5,000 and other times it’s 500,000) by generating relevant content in an industry or vertical and has authority amongst a large audience and following.

Influencers can be bloggers, podcasters, photographers, industry insiders, Vine artists, recipe sharers, or Pinterest elites. Regardless of the medium or media type, these leaders create content that consistently resonates with their audience. In fact, the most authoritative influencers have built their audience across two or more channels and use these social channels in harmony to converse and meet their audience on the platforms relevant to their content generation process.

If you’ve been researching this influencer marketing topic, you likely saw the term ‘advocate’. Let’s get our marketing buzzwords straight: an advocate is different than an influencer. An advocate is someone online who cheers for your brand and consistently helps share your message on a regular basis.

Also called “fanboys” and “fangirls”, advocates are brand loyalists who are valuable to your brand because they have strong relationships in their (sometimes small) audience and “fight the fight” on your brand’s behalf. These folks routinely share and serve as amplifiers of your content.

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Influencers are different than advocates in a few ways. Influencers:

  • Carry a larger audience than advocates
  • Generate their own content, rather than sharing branded content as advocates do
  • Look to be partnered with
  • Drive scalability via consumer reach and engagement
  • Enable you to target a particular customer segment/demographic/audience type

Great, what now?

As you continue to explore influencers and advocates as an extension of your existing marketing strategy and campaign analysis, look at your advocate base. Don’t know who your advocates are? Oh, discovering them is easy – look at your social listening and social research tools and run your brand keywords to discover who’s talking about you most.

In the coming days, I’ll continue this education series by telling you how to find the best influencers.

That is, I’ll help find the needle in the haystack and give you tips on who will be the best partner for your campaign or ongoing brand storytelling efforts.

Photo credit: Flickr user geniuz)

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