Social Influencer vs Advocate
In a nutshell, if you have loads of Twitter follower or tons of blog visitors or numerous likes and subscribers on your YouTube Channel, you can be deemed a Social Influencer. You are fair game for brands. On the other hand, if you’ve been sharing selfies with your favourite products and you’ve been getting into extensive “discussions” and writing blogs or lengthy Facebook posts extrapolating the virtues of that brand, for no reward or recognition whatsoever… you’re a social advocate or evangelist. And the real mystery that brands ought to ponder is – which of these two are they better off placing their money on?
The Obvious Influence
Social influencers have huge social following and large number of people responding to them frequently. They become the ideal choice for brands to give out free products for user-testing, invite them to product launches and shower them with other such gratifications. Thus, amusingly so – a social influencer is likely to be a person whose job application was refused by a company in the past. But they are approached by the same company to advertise their products – because of their massive social following.
A social influencer – may not be an expert – is more likely to be given VIP treatment by a brand when approached. For if not – they’re as likely to give you bad word-of-mouth, which is as likely to snowball into a popularly shared story on social media, headlining the villainy of your brand. On the other hand, a good story about your brand by a social influencer is likely to be reached and talked about by more people of quality, which even thrice the amount of usual ad spends might not yield.
So, who cares about Social advocates – right? Wrong!
Numbers don’t always necessarily mean conversions on social media. There are so many new stories that users are as attracted to share. It takes their mind from the story about your brand they shared a while back. This is where Social Advocates prove more long-term beneficial. The only one way to counter constant distraction and forgetfulness is through constant reminders. Imagine you’re not really into phones but for utility-sake you need to buy a new one. As a non-phone-lover the sensible choice would be to go for a cheap smartphone with a good warranty. Yet it is more likely that you’ll go for an expensive from the brand evangelized by your friend.
Advocates are basically people who love your brand already, and are already sharing positive stories. They are defending and extrapolating the virtues of your brand in multiple ways. However they may not be “Social Influencers” – so to say. So why should a brand invest in them when their social reach isn’t really very impressive in numbers? If not just because they simple deserve it in all fairness?
Here’s a theory: a social advocate that isn’t an influencer – is an established advocate of your brand within his social circle. So when your brand finally makes his not-so-secret wish come true and grandly gratifies him, and he shares that story… Ta-da! He’s now a social influencer. All of a sudden, his social circle and their social circles start taking your brand’s advocate seriously. All this because you as a brand have lent credence to his advocacy and rewarded him grandly for it.
The Influential Brand Advocate
This is based on a true story. Imagine a new Italian fine dining restaurant in town has an opening party. Following popular trend – they invite a bunch of social influencers off the bat. Most social influencers are popular food-bloggers or social influencers on Twitter. But they have no experience with what authentic Italian fine dining food is supposed to taste like. Moral of the story: counter-productive and a waste of “fine” cooking.
Take an example where brands plan a brilliant activity with social influencers. All goes well and the social influencers blog or vlog about your event, giving your brand plenty interactions. What happens when the next week another brand does a similar event with similar results, and so forth? The only way the brand benefits from all of this is if it manages to yields consistent self-sustainable results.
In the humble opinion of this writer, the biggest problem with brands on social media is that they are all about acquiring engagement and numbers. Social media can be best used to find brand advocates and make them social influencers. For if you consistently reward the consistent support of your brand advocates, or Social Evangelists – as they are more appropriately called – many more as such shall emerge, and form actual communities for your brand, thus making your brand truly – “Social”.
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