Lots of talk on Twitter lately about the connection between brand advocates and brand influencers. (by the way, you may know brand advocacy better by the term “word-of-mouth”)
During these discussions, I tweeted:
Advocacy depends on what you do. Influence depends on how others react to what you do
In other words, there are many people who love your brand. They’re your advocates. They’re on your side. But many of those people only have small offline or online networks to spread recommendations to other potential markets.
But interspersed in your group of brand advocates are a few influencers. At cocktail parties, other people ask them about the latest big thing or they could even be the local newspaper’s movie/restaurant/etc critic. They might have a massive Twitter following, thousands of YouTube subscribers, lots of Facebook friends, or be connected in some other online network.
When it comes to earned impressions, choosing to invest in those influential brand advocates is essential to success. Your hope (and plan) should be that your advocates ARE influencers.
But for many, the challenge is to find the influencer needle in the advocate haystack. The answer is simple; provide tools and knowledge to all your advocates. The influencers will know what to do with it.
Isn’t that an unfocused waste of resources on the unwashed masses of your “uninfluencial” advocates?
It doesn’t hurt to help them spread your word either. Just as you wouldn’t turn down a press mention in a low circulated / low rated traditional media placement, you shouldn’t dismiss the long tail power of lots of “uninfluential” recomendations.
And while some of the networks are new, these are really not new concepts. Malcolm Gladwell discussed how ideas spread in The Tipping Point and I even discussed how well designed products and services have a natural zeitgeist quality in Brand Zeitgeist.
But for marketers, here’s the tough truth about advocates / influencers: This is not something that can be solved with just marketing. Having a great product / service and delivering positive customer service is what creates brand advocates. The new role of marketing is to provide the infuencers the narrative to spread the word about those great things.