Content Marketing, Social Media Infographics

Social Media Influencers versus Brand Advocates Infographic

Jay Baer Blog PostInfluencer outreach is a key element of many social media and modern public relations programs. But they often prove ineffective at driving behavior beyond social chatter. I wrote a post about why this is so, called “Why Online Influencer Outreach is Overrated and How to Fix It”

The biggest issue is that we tend to confuse audience with influence. Having a lot of Twitter followers doesn’t give you the power to drive action, it gives you the power to drive awareness. Those are different abilities with unequal degrees of usefulness, just like the power to fly (Superman) is better than the power to swim fast and talk to fish (Aquaman).

The other issue is passion. True influence requires two things: audience and advocacy. Advocacy is driven by the depth of conviction, and influencers typically are less committed to the product or company than are actual customer advocates.

In the original post, I recommend focusing these types of programs first on harnessing the passion of current customers, who make up for in passion what they may lack in audience, and then expand to influencers who bring the audience but perhaps less passion.

Our friends at (which helps companies activate customer advocates) worked up this infographic that illustrates the differences between influencers and advocates. Feel free to share it, embed it, etc.

Influencers versus Advocates Infographic



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  1. mschaefer700 says

    This is a very interesting concept, but in reality, the defnitions are not always so clear-cut. One of the example I have been thinking about — a few months ago, Chris Brogan wrote a sponsored post about a paper shredder. I found this overt type of advertising rather odd at the time but nevertheless, it probably sold a few paper shredders, or at least increased brand awareness among Chris’s passionate fans. Chris is certainly an influencer. Is he also an advocate if he truly loves the product?  Where do the lines cross?There is also a matter of reach. Does it make more sense to spend time nurturing a true advocate with 100 followers or spending money on Chris who blogs before a small nation of fans?  You probably need to do both, but at the end of the day I’d put my money on Chris for driving net sales.It’s not cut and dry but posts like this are certainly useful for driving the conversation forward. Thanks for sharing Jay.

    • says

      mschaefer700 Thanks for the comment Mark. Indeed, in the original post on which this infographic was based, we talked about that point, and used a Brogan post as the example. My belief is that companies should always start with advocates, and then move into influencers. Pitch influencers on the strength of your advocacy, not the strength of your product. Makes it much more organic and believable.

      • says

        JayBaer Great point Jay. I’d also say that a true brand advocate will talk often while an influencer will talk once…maybe. Using Chris as the example, he hasn’t talked about paper shredders since that post. 

        • says

          JohnMorgan John, I see your point as the True power in Advocates versus Influences… The repetition of the message. Advocates help you realize you have a need for the product versus an influencer who simply shows you a potential solution to a potential problem…

      • says

        JayBaer Great point Jay. I’d also say that a true brand advocate will talk often while an influencer will talk once…maybe. Using Chris as the example, he hasn’t talked about paper shredders since that post. 

    • AnnaCKeenan says

      mschaefer700 RE “Does it make more sense to spend time nurturing a true advocate with 100 followers or spending money on Chris who blogs before a small nation of fans?”I think both the original post and your ‘I’d put my money on Chris’ guess probably both need some testing. But nonetheless, I’ll offer my untested opinion too… my instincts tend towards deeper relationships – we all switch off to advertising (even from our fave celebs etc) because we can ‘feel’ that it is shallow marketing, but when a trusted friend honestly recommends a product or a great restaurant, we listen.

  2. says

    Stimulating post, Jay. My question is what is the (and your) definition of an influencer and a brand advocate? The conversation may get muddled without defining the difference between each. 

    • says

      JonFMoss We tried to make the distinction in the graphic, and there’s more detail in the original post, but in general Advocate = Authentic Customer and Influencer = Person With An Audience. 

  3. aboer says

    Ironically, this post for Zuberance is being disseminated, (quite effectively I think) using the Influencer approach. So I agree with mschaefer. The problem isn’t that influencers are ineffective or have their own agenda; the problem is that most people use them in a ham-handed way.  The main value of influencers (like Jay Baer) is that they have reach/audience — they are really more like Publishers in this regard.  So don’t buy them for their influence, buy them for their reach.  Use them for distribution, or even better make them featured authors on your site and have them create custom content for you–and get them to drive their audience to your content. Just don’t ask them to shill for your brand.  Thats the part that doesn’t work, if it isn’t completely authentic and organic.

    • says

      aboer Yes and no. I wrote the original post. Zuberance made the infographic. You are right that audience (reach, as you call it) is key, but most companies confuse audience with influence. That was the crux of the original post. Can Chris Brogan sell leather jackets (or paper shredders, in Mark’s example)? I guess so, but there are far more efficient ways to do it. 

      • markwschaefer says

        JayBaer @@aboer Great conversation. As always, you need to start with your goals and backwards-engineer from there as far as the best strategy that meets your budget and resources.

      • aboer says

        JayBaer Actually I agree with this completely.  I  think influence should only be earned (either organically or through compelling advertising) but that audience can and should be sold. They are confused, and should be separated.   If only 18% truly trust influencers (which I kind of doubt, really) it is because those influencers have built a reputation for selling their influence rather than their audience.

  4. says

    The hard part for most companies that are just starting to get their heads around true advocacy is the notion of loss of control. Allison Aldridge Saur said it best recently when she noted that most true brand advocates will be around long after the marketing personnel are long gone. The folks who have a longstanding relationship with a product should be given a platform, a voice, that is supported by the company. Jay, I think you nailed it by putting focus on the advocate community, then working out to influencers and others. Just giving people a place to participate as part of a wide audience is a start, but the real work is understanding what needs to be developed around the two groups. Michelle Kostya talked about this recently, and I think finally folks are starting to listen. 

    • says

      freighter We’re getting there. I’m not “down” on influencers at all, and in fact get involved in those types of programs quite a bit. But I do believe that if you can start with authentic advocates and work out from there, your outcomes will improve. Not always possible – especially with brand-new products, etc. but a best practice, IMHO.

  5. PavelNovel says

    @ssscorvus Thanks for the RT! I was surprised that only 18% of people trust sm influencers but 92% trust brand advocates

    • ssscorvus says

      @PavelNovel prolly b/c the influencers tend to get paid and sent free stuff so it doesn’t seem like they genuinely like the product…

  6. brandmeetsblog says

    HI there, I am an Australian working in blogger outreach (and a blogger by background) and I do a lot of work with personal and beauty bloggers and one of my goals with any brand advocacy/influencer work we do is to find a place where those two things cross over. I’m not interested in just working with the biggest voices, but rather the best matched voices. So in my world and work, I find that influencers can also be advocates and indeed that should be the goal. Would be interested to hear from others about whether you think that this is possible and if it were possible, would you consider it a more valid form of outreach? (I should say that particularly where personal bloggers are involved I think there is a place for payment of some form to be involved and that the inclusion of this doesn’t have to negate the validity of the genuine advocacy/influencer sentiment).

    • aboer says

      brandmeetsblog I think you have the right approach about reaching the best matched voices. (that is our approach at MovableMedia too).But I personally think it crosses a line to explicitly ask influencers to be advocates — it diminishes their credibility, and I don’t think it should be “the goal”.  The more you try to “buy” influence, the less influence you will have — if only because you are going to engage bloggers who are known to sell their influence to, say, a paper shredder company. Put another way, the buying and selling of influence is pretty much the definition of bribery — whereas the buying and selling of audience is pretty much the definition of advertising. Which sounds more legitimate to you? There are some exceptions– for example I think one of the many amazing talents of US broadcaster Howard Stern is that he is able to read his advertisers copy as if he is advocating for the brands.  But at the same time, he sends out a number of subtle signals that let his long-time listeners know that this is not *really* his own opinion — he changes his voice, speaks more quickly–one can tell, if you pay attention, that he is just doing an advertisement.  But a lot of folks are still fooled.But this is much a harder act to do as a blog post — you can send out signals like “Jay says” but I think it is a pretty slippery slope.   I think a better approach is to leverage the audience/reach in a completely transparent way, by getting the blogger to move their audience to content on the brand’s site.  

  7. Mandy says

    Hey where’s the Pinterest Pin It button for this story?  I’m looking for it and don’t see it.  Did I miss something?

    • DebWeinstein says

      @jaybaer it’s a pleasure to read & share such smart thinking based on sound research! TY for sharing.

  8. Holaba says

    Good read! Since I was about to finish a comment on the new Initiative study, you’re the fist ones to share with. The Initiative study is a very good study since it proves -once again- the immense value of the social influencers for brands. But how to find out who among these social influencers are also brand recommenders – that hasn’t been solved yet. We all have these social influencers in our close and not so close friends’ circles and some are fanatic about anarchism, privacy, snowboarding and wines … but very seldom they also have an opinion about brands. For marketers the first group is of no use…unless you’re the CMO of a snowboard manufacturer or a ski-station.Initiative conducted a global online study among 8014 web users aged 16-54 across eight countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and the UK. Then they isolated the “TOP 10%” because they have a disproportionate share of influence. “These superinfluencers are defined by several key attributes and behaviors: having higher levels of media consumption, a social predisposition and wide category shopping; being more likely to research products online and make recommendations to others.”They also found out that 22% of that “TOP 10%”-group recommends products and service more than once a day. 30% would do that once a day and 31% more than once week. So in total 8,6% of all online users are top-brand-recommenders. That sounds pretty normal. But to find the real brand recommenders you should add all online users who recommend brands at least once a week. That number isn’t mentioned in the study. The only thing we know is that an additional 0,3 will come from the “Bottom 10”. My guess is that in the remaining “Middle 80%” another 5 to 10% of brand recommenders will pop up.This fanatic focus on brands is absolutely necessary when we talk (in marketing at least) about “social influence”. I’d rather have a brand influencer who talks about recommended and not recommend brands every other day to 10 – 15 people, than a social influencer with 150 friends who hardly mentions brands in his ongoing status updates or tweets.How will Initiative identify them? On the web for sure. On the social media? That can indeed be one of the platforms where you find them. But don’t forget that the vast majority of consumers do not talk about brands online. Greenberry in the Netherlands recently monitored the web for 4 months and spotted 354.000 messages about “car”. Only 22% of them are related to a brandname. BMW (of course) tops the list with 50.000 messages with the BMW brandname in it. Of course BMW is a very good car (I have one too:) but it’s not the best selling car: they’re only @ place 13 in the NL- list. Are those who talk about their BMW “carbrand influencers”? Yes. BMW is a strong brand. Do they also talk about other brands online. Maybe. We don’t know.Identifying brand influencers is not easy. But it is the start (without ever finishing). Each brand will have to do it day by day and use several sources to find them. Everyone in the company will be involved to spot them. Research will help brands to understand who these brand influencers are, which brands they recommend and don’t recommend. And why.If media agencies can then find out which media influences these brand-influencers, then it’s all gonna be a lot easier to sell brands to the right person, without annoying the large non-interested group. And without wasting money.Ciao – Jan Van den Bergh – Chairman Holaba

  9. shinykatie says

    @garyandrews You sound like Kath Day Knight from Kath & KIm – “That was interesting. I don’t agree. But it was interesting”.

    • garyandrews says

      @shinykatie Oh God, ha! I’m now going to sit on the idiot step and think about what I’ve done (and possibly change profile pic to said lady)

  10. jwalphenaar says

    @PatrickBoonstra uiteraard zit die er in, maar hoe vind je het Pepsi verhaal dan? Gewoon de 129.000 fans in steek gelaten op Hyves?

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  13. says

    Good stuff, Jay. We find very much the same thing about advocates. It’s shocking how many brands don’t leverage their best marketers – think of every loyalty program you belong to – they have your information, so why don’t they nurture you?

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