With the rise of influence marketing, an interesting trend has risen alongside: Brands are more determined than ever to activate brand influencers, but they are increasingly skeptical of the tools they have at their disposal.
In fact, a recent study from Sensei Marketing found that although 74 percent of brand marketers plan to focus on influence marketing strategies this year, 94 percent don’t fully trust influence metrics from social-scoring platforms.
At the heart of this gap in trust is the pervasive myth of the “everything advocate”–a person who’s influential about all manner of things or across all topics remotely related to an umbrella topic, such as travel or marketing. Not surprisingly, renting access to an audience deemed to be so broadly influential erodes brand authenticity. Brands must understand that a significant difference exists in the motivations, authority, and ROI of rentable influencer pools with high generic reach, and genuine brand advocates who drive very specific, very relevant conversations for your brand.
Rented vs. Organic: Motivations
The first major incongruity between short-term influencers and genuine advocates comes from their motivation. The rented influencer has an external motivation–typically monetary–whereas the organic advocate is intrinsically motivated out of love for the brand. True advocates share because they want to, not because they are looking for a tangible reward.
In some cases, trying to rent influence from the wrong individual can have disastrous, highly public consequences. Earlier this year, a company called Brander Influencers discovered that when it solicited paid promotions from comedian Patton Oswalt. Rented influencers are always focused on what they can get out of it–Patton just skipped the paid relationship and went straight to doing what earned him 1.5 million adoring followers in the first place.
Rented vs. Organic: Authority
The two groups also differ in topical authority. Everything advocates, or the notion that those who are willing to tout anything can do so with authority, is undoubtedly a myth. People are most credible, and influential, when they speak about topics they genuinely care about.
The mercenary influencer may command a wide reach, but that doesn’t typically translate to the more fine-tuned topics that matter to brands. Just because someone is a “travel” influencer focused on hotel and airline bookings and scores a large social reach for the topic doesn’t mean they hold the expertise needed to sway opinion for a rental car service. In fact, when rented influencers reach outside of their areas of expertise, the community takes notice, and the brand’s relationship with genuine fans actually takes a hit. Genuine fans feel spurned long after the paid influencer has moved on to the next client.
On the other hand, existing organic advocates know the brand’s product top to bottom and genuinely believe in it. Advocates can talk about the brand, its products, and also its values in their own voice in a way that the brand can’t credibly talk about itself. One brand that does a great job fostering its organic advocates is Knorr (a Crowdly customer). Knorr consistently engages in contextual conversations with its advocates. Visit its Facebook page, and you can see and feel the genuine dialogue that happens in its community daily.
Rented vs. Organic: Differing ROI
The ROI of rented influencers is a one-time deal. They’ll talk about a brand this week, but then move on to the next coupon or campaign as soon as the brand stops compensating them. Even while being paid, they could easily move on to supporting a competitor that offers a better deal.
Rent-a-fan campaigns draw brands because they are relatively low maintenance to launch and are easily quantifiable at a surface level. Brands determine a budget, make offer to influencers, and then pay them. However, after the spike in vanity metrics, such as mentions or posts, the message is quickly forgotten and fails to drive real results.
Investing in organic, pre-existing brand advocates is akin to watering your own garden: There are both immediate and long-term benefits. The advocates will generate reach and drive real results. Brands overwhelmingly report that authentic word of mouth drives unparalleled results. According to a McKinsey study, “word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions."
Activate Your Real Advocates, Not Mercenaries
The differences between advocates and “influencers” illustrate why brand commitment to genuine advocacy marketing is high, while satisfaction with the crop of rent-a-fan providers continues to drop. With Facebook and other platforms, brands are more closely connected to their authentic advocates than ever before, while these “super fans” are closer to the people they directly influence. Fostering advocacy from authentic fans might not be as simple as picking an offer and writing a check, but brands are finding it’s an investment well worth making.