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The rise of influencer marketing is one of the hottest trends in social media for brands.

According to Linqia’s The State of Influencer Marketing 2017 report, 86% of respondents said they were using influencer marketing, and of that number, 94% found it to be an effective tactic.

However, close to 80% of the respondents found it was challenging to determine the ROI of its influencer marketing programs. And, almost 50% were challenged by which influencers to work with.

Done right, influencer marketing is a long-term tactic – there is a lengthy dating process between influencer and brand, and an even longer time to determine effectiveness for influencer and brand.

Is Brand Advocacy better?

Brand Advocacy may have lost some of its luster because influencer marketing is the “it” tactic right now. But, its ROI is higher than most marketing programs.

Thus, brand advocacy may be better than influencer marketing.

Here’s why:

  • Brands earn advocates by creating remarkable experiences that stimulate customers to tell others. The recommendation is a by-product of the investment in creating quality experiences. In that sense, it’s nearly cost-free.
  • Brand advocates share recommendations at ‘moments of delight’ in the customer journey when prompted. You don’t have to pay them. In fact, doing so taints the process.
  • Consumers trust recommendations made without any incentive because they are more authentic. The lack of vested interest is what makes brand advocates’ testimonials so powerful.

Influencer marketing has gained popularity, in part, because of the reach each influencer has.

It’s become effective for brands to compensate influencers so they can tap into the influencer’s large social following.

But, for how long?

The more successful an influencer is at driving measurable actions from their audience, the more brands will typically have to pay. And, this “pay to play” perception for influencer marketing has left a bad taste in people’s mouths.

The real issue is that while influencers can generate awareness, many aren’t able to drive behaviors to impact revenues. Many brands either don’t directly ask for that action, preferring a loose relationship, or go so far as to push influencers to pitch a sale that it loses authenticity, and fails.

[bctt tweet=”…while influencers can generate awareness, many aren’t able to drive behaviors to impact revenues.” username=”@sdepolo”]

So, what is the value of influencer marketing?

Influencer Marketing appears to be headed in the same direction as paid/sponsored social media – increasing in cost with no end in sight.

On the other hand, while each brand advocate may have a small social media reach, the impact of their social posts is significant.

Brand Advocacy In Action

I’ve managed advocacy campaigns for many brands, including Intuit, AnytimeFitness,, and GoDaddy.

In all cases, results were similarly impressive.

For example, GoDaddy’s advocates generate thousands of positive reviews and social media posts each month. On average, each review or story shared by our advocates generates six ‘inbound clicks.’ That means that six of their friends or followers clicked through to read their positive brand mention or recommendation.

And, with the average number of Facebook and Twitter followers at 338 and 200, respectively, people think content shared is compelling.

We also track sales generated in the 30 days following exposure to content shared by advocates. We use sophisticated tracking software to attribute sales to the program. Each month our advocates’ social posts help us acquire new customers and we see increased orders from existing customers.

While this attribution model is not perfect, it’s another proof point. Compared to other social media programs, it demonstrates better ROI than most.

Our influencer marketing program is too new to compare to this.

Based on stories of other brands who are further along, I predict brand advocacy will end up being a more efficient investment.

Brand advocacy programs can be easier to scale than influencer programs.

At GoDaddy, we prompt advocates to recommend us immediately after they answer our satisfaction survey with a high score. Once we set up the form that collects the reviews and invites advocates to share them on social media, the program is mostly on auto-pilot.

Since 2012, we’ve been adding new ways to identify and engage advocates. This has earned us an army of 600,000 advocates who have shared either a review or story. We’ve also been able to easily translate these campaigns into multiple foreign languages.

Influencer marketing takes time, whether done manually or through a platform. While some automation is possible, it’s still a lot of manual outreach that doesn’t scale easily.

And, while influencer marketing is still maturing, brand advocacy is better than influencer marketing to achieve an immediate ROI in many cases. In the end, brand advocacy and influencer marketing will converge, as micro-influencers who are natural advocates for brands fall somewhere in-between these approaches. I’ll cover that in future posts, so we hope you’ll subscribe to get notified when we post new content.