Brands are searching harder than ever to find the fastest ways to gain exposure and grow business through the noise of the marketing world.  These days, highly creative and unique tactics win out over standard methods simply because consumers have become numb.  With holiday season rapidly approaching, marketing’s “golden child” influencer marketing could be one road to take, but is it the only one?  Let’s talk about what can you do to set your brand apart and catch the eye of your target audience.

Influencers, advocates, celebrity sponsors – buzzwords in the Word of Mouth marketing community, often used interchangeably, hold quite different meanings.  There has been discussion lately about influencers vs. advocates, and this article will cover the differences while also sharing similarities and helping you decide which fits your brand’s holiday marketing strategies.

So let’s get down to the goods.  How does any of this affect you, your brand, digital marketing, and any holiday marketing campaigns you will do for the season?

Advocate Marketing

Brand advocates, otherwise known as brand ambassadors, date back to the early 1990’s as “brand managers” transitioned into this new role.  Brand ambassadors can be any of the following:

1. Celebrity endorser or spokes model Someone famous paid by an organization to embody the brand’s identity, mission, values, ethics.  It’s shocking, in fact, when you look through ads in a magazine today, because most brands use celebrity spokes models to represent them.  This takes the form of everything from modeling and media ads and expands from there.

2. Non-profit ambassadors – (aka goodwill ambassador) Often well-known personalities or celebrity advocates helping spread the good word of non-profit organizations.  For example, Leonardo DiCaprio successfully worked as a non-profit ambassador alongside the World Wildlife Fund during a tiger habitat conservation effort to increase the number of tigers.

3. Promotional models The distinction of a promotional model is that they might be a representing multiple brands at once, while brand ambassadors are often only allowed to represent one brand at a time due to contracts.

4. Brand advocates These are the folks often interchanged and considered by some companies as brand ambassadors.  They are often satisfied customers, supportive fans, community advocates who are tasked to go out of their way to promote the product(s) they love.  Brand advocates can range from informal to formal, from a casual mention on Facebook to an agreed upon contract with a brand to wear clothing out and about, take photos, and promote via social channels.  Advocates are known to be 50% more influential than the average customer.

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Brand advocates vary in shapes and sizes, and you can go a lot of directions here, which is great news.  Ambassadors are holding strong with their ability to penetrate the nearly impenetrable noise of social media, and they are a good bet for up and coming or established brands.  It is worth considering pairing an ambassador program with an influencer program.

Influencer Marketing

Now, onto the Golden Child of marketing: Influencers.  These folks can cross over into celebrity endorsers, but the primary mechanism of influencers is their uncanny social media celebrity and following.  Below is a list of different influencers to be aware of, that I will cover in an article next week:

1. Based on online location: Instagrammers, Bloggers, YouTubers, Snapchatters, Viners, Live Streamers (Periscope, Meerkat, Blab), Facebook

2. Based on type: The Celebrity, The Expert, The Reporters, The Thought Leaders, The Trendsetters, The Everyday Customers.

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Influencers build their social following one follower at a time.  They work day in and day out to grow a niche audience who believes in them, is dedicated to their cause – whatever that is – and is loyal.  If you connect with an influencer in your industry who upholds a solid reputation and robust following, this can be potent marketing fuel.  Although you can expect to pay for an influencer campaign, this is not necessarily a negative.  When business deals maintain business parameters, including payment for work, expect results.  The final cool thing about influencers is that while it has become increasingly more difficult to collaborate with these social media moguls on your own, there is no shortage of influencer marketing agencies to support your endeavor.

With holidays practically tomorrow in marketing time, jump on your campaigns today, whichever route you choose!