Influencers or Brand Advocates? What’s better for your brand?

Social media has undoubtably become a platform for businesses to drive awareness of their brand and to drive sales.  Social media promotion comes in all shapes in sizes– from a Smart Water ad in your instagram feed to Hamburger Helper dropping a rap mixtape that goes viral. , to a celebrity retweeting a LuluLemon product, to your friend tweeting “I love Chipotle”.  All of these types of promotion have their advantages, but I want to focus on the last two: A celebrity retweeting a Lululemon product or your friend tweeting “I love chipotle”.  They are examples of social media influencers and brand advocates.




A Social media influencer is a person who has a large or very engaged following on some type of social media platform.  These influencers can be Taylor Swift, a fashion blogger, a youtuber, or a Bill Nye the Science Guy parody account.  Basically anyone who can drive impressions on social media is considered an influencer.

The power of influencers is undeniable, in many different areas of the internet.  They tend to be the people who really make something go viral.  Good content tends to go unnoticed until someone with a large following shares it.  One big example of influencers was with ‘Kony 2012’.  Although the results of this campaign were questionable, the campaign targeted major celebrities which they called “culturemakers” to get the word out.

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SMI’s in Business

Brands often use influencers to drive awareness or sales to their products.  For example, Dick’s Sporting goods might pay famous athletes to promote them on their accounts, or H&M might pay a fashion blogger to review one of their products on Instagram.  These types of promotions are really cool, and definitely generate a bunch of awareness based on the influencer’s following.  The next question is- do they actually drive sales?


Before we answer that- let’s look at Brand Advocates.  A brand advocate is a person who is passionate about a brand and actively chooses to get the word out about the brand.  A brand advocate is your friend John that you follow who tweets “I Love Chipotle” and Retweets Chipotle’s special offers on twitter.  John even Dm’s you asking if you want to join him for lunch at Chipotle.  The difference between the advocate and the influencer is that the advocate is more passionate about the product and doesn’t have their own agenda behind promoting the brand.  Brands often keep close track of customers like John on social media and engage with them through commenting, tweeting, etc.  I used to intern for a company who monitored all activity on social media for Target, and they would respond to both good and bad posts.

What’s Better for your Brand?  Influencers or Advocates?

The answer is both.  While Influencers tend to create more awareness, advocates tend to drive a larger percentage of sales for brands.  I found some cool supplements on that have some key comparisons between influencers and advocates.  Check it out below:

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Some key things that Zuberance looks at here are consumer trust, motivation and incentives.  As seen, 18% of consumers tend to trust influencers while 92% trust brand advocates. Also, influencers are not motivated because they have a true passion for the product, and typically need some type of incentive to post about your brand.  On the flip side however, an influencer with 100k twitter followers is lot more exposure than an advocate with 100 followers.  How many sales can 100 followers really drive?  How many sales can 100k followers really drive?  The answers are not completely clear, but it is good to know the difference between the types of promotion.

So what do you guys think?  What’s better for your brand?  Social media Influencers or Brand Advocates?



  1. This was a really interesting post with some great insights. I liked the infographic you included that compared influencers and brand advocates. I have read in the past that people are more influenced by peer and friends than a company or celebrities, so it makes sense to me that people trust brand advocates more. This is the reason people trust comments and user generated content and why it has become so popular. For me, if I know a celebrity is being paid to promote a brand, I am skeptical about trusting their endorsement. However, as you mentioned, I think influencers are important to raising awareness of a product. Influencers might put the product in a consumer’s consideration set, but brand advocates may actually influence the consumer to buy.

  2. Great post highlighting the distinctions between these two key players in “secret” marketing. Having a good brand image is extremely important, especially on social media. An interactive platform as well as a loyal following are crucial to success. I think that the most important would be the social media influencers, because of the aspirational aspect that they bring to the table. However, I do think there is a fair amount of weight that lies within the opinion of ones friends and their ability to sway their peers evaluations. Overall, great distinction and recommendations!

  3. I dont know if i can pick one of the other. I love when celebrities do endorsements, but at the same time they feel forced and fake. I think Blake Griffin is hilarious, but i know that the dude does actually like kia .. just the fat check that gets cut.
    Im very interested in your hamburger helper example .. i think that is proof that you dont need fame to promote a product. .. just talent

  4. Interesting post, I’m curious how the company you interned for was able to track individuals as random as your hypothetical “John.” Can they notice, via data analytics, which users are pushing other users to the brand? It would also be cool to see how a company viewed each of us within their branding strategy

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