Influencer marketing is on fire. Although the concept has been around for years, it wasn’t until recently then it started taking over the world by storm. According to the State of Influencer Marketing 2021: Benchmark Report, the influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately $13.8 Billion by the end of 2021, and rightfully so.
Brands now understand that an effective way to reach new audiences is through partnerships with third party voices and influencers. today we call them creators, but I still like to refer to them as influencers because it shows a significant impact they may have when producing or sharing content.
The thing with influencers is that it comes with a price, and sometimes a hefty price. For brands that have significant budget they can activate large influencer campaigns across all social media channels and really make an impact.
Once the campaign is over, the influencers move on to the next opportunity. This is something that we, as marketers, have accepted as reality.
A brand advocate is different. They don’t know that they are influential. They don’t know that brands are listening to the conversations they are having on social media. They don’t really care. All they care about is your product, how it makes them feel, the utility it provides to them or how it helps them do their job better.
Brand advocacy is a concept that was often discussed in the early days of social media. Brands and community managers had direct access to their customers through social media communities and everybody talked about how amazing the interactions were. there were case studies written about it, the media would call out these amazing interactions but somehow over the last decade the concept of brand advocacy has shifted.
The beauty about brand advocates, is that they don’t require payment. They may not be influential as an “influencer” would be, but their content and micro-community is more authentic.
It’s also important to note that everyone is influential. Everyone on social media has a circle of influence that they talked to every single day. Whether it’s on Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat or TikTok, brand advocates hold the key to sustaining long term, relevant conversations about a brand.
Also, the campaign is not finite. If you provide a stellar product or service, excellent customer service they will continue to talk about your brand forever. now imagine if you just paid a little attention to your advocates. That in itself can drive viral content.
Smart brands are realizing this. They are operationalizing a customer advocacy program because they sustain long term business value and recurring revenue. Of course, the results might not make it onto the front page of Adweek like an influencer program might, but the metrics and KPI’s will prove that customer advocacy is a smart investment for your business.
I am certainly not saying that influencer marketing is a bad investment or that you should invest in a customer advocacy program instead. Both of these types of programs add a lot of business value. It could be argued that the integration of an influencer and brand advocacy program can drive even more value and stronger brand reputation when the programs are in alignment.