Brand Influencers vs. Brand Advocates - What’s the Difference?

Tue May 18 2021 Ohiozoje O.

When it comes to promoting and growing your brand, you have many options available, but which should you choose and when?

Today, more than ever, social proof plays a huge role in your brand’s growth. If you want to succeed, you need people praising your products and services online. This is where brand influencers and brand advocates come in.

At first, it may be tempting to opt for brand influencers right away. Influencers are the rave now, right? But, after seeing a recent Forrester report that shows only 18% of your customers trust brand influencers while a whopping 92% trust brand advocates, you may want to reconsider your choice.

But first, who are brand influencers and brand advocates.

How are they different?

Who are Brand Influencers?

Neil Patel defines brand influencers as "experts within a specific community who endorse or review products, software, or even thoughts within their field of expertise".

Brand influencers are mainly characterized by their large following on the internet. You can always catch a brand influencer on their social media page or blog promoting one product or the other.

The relationship between an influencer and your brand is mainly transactional. Thus, they don't have to be invested in your brand to work with you. This means that you'll always need to give them an incentive to work with you.

Ideally, their large following gives them the power to influence purchasing decisions of many people. But the truth is, this influence which they supposedly wield doesn't always drive their audience to take action.

Who are Brand Advocates?

Brand advocates are people who use your product(s) and would gladly recommend it to others with or without an incentive. They are usually customers or employees and are typically invested in your brand.

Brand advocacy is an extension of word-of-mouth marketing, so it isn't new. Consumers have always trusted their peers' opinion of a product over all other forms of marketing- including brand influencers.

This trust is why you should pay extra attention to this form of social marketing.

Brand Influencers Vs. Brand Advocates

Brand influencers and brand advocates both promote your products or brand using their influence over their peers. However, they differ significantly and produce different results for your business. 
Here are some of these differences:

Consumer Trust

Consumers trust brand advocates more than they do brand influencers. The reason for this isn't far-fetched. Brand advocates promote products based on their positive experiences and trust for a brand, while influencers promote products purely from a transactional position.

Brand advocates say what they know from their experience with your product, while influencers say what you ask them to say. With influencers, it's more like a "he who pays the piper dictates the tune" situation.

Regardless of your marketing preferences, your consumers know the difference between both approaches. This is why they can trust brand advocates better than brand influencers.

Winner: Brand advocates.


A brand influencer is a famous personality in their niche, while a brand advocate is simply a highly impressed customer or an employee. Brand advocates usually have a smaller audience than influencers.

With that said, an influencer has a broader reach when compared to brand advocates. However, the money isn't always in the numbers. So, a brand influencer's large following doesn't always translate to real influence.

Winner: Brand influencers.


The primary aim of a brand influencer is to get more followers while a brand advocate genuinely wants to help their audience.

Like I mentioned earlier, a brand's relationship with a brand influencer is primarily transactional. So, they are mainly in it for the pay and increased popularity.

On the other hand, a brand advocate recommends your product to their peers because they genuinely think it will be helpful to them.

Thus, a brand advocate's motivation makes them more effective than a brand influencer.

Winner: Brand advocates.


Brand influencers and advocates produce shockingly different results. Despite the difference in reach, a brand influencer creates a short-lived social buzz while a brand advocate creates a long-lasting impact.

At best, brand influencers can make a lot of people aware of your product. But when it comes to actual conversions and customer retention, brand advocates do better than influencers by 37%.

Winner: Brand advocates.


When brand advocates say anything about your product, they mean it. This isn't always the case with brand influencers because they aren't personally invested in your product.

This genuineness easily translates to a passion for your product or brand. When your target audience sees this passion, they can easily be converted. After conversion, these new customers soon become loyal to your brand after experiencing your products themselves.

Winner: Brand advocates.


Brand influencers always require incentives to promote your products. These incentives can be money, product samples, free trials, etc. In most cases, you don't need to pay brand advocates to recommend your product.

Even when you decide to reward brand advocates, it's usually not their primary motivation for promoting your brand. This means that it is more cost-effective to promote your products through brand advocates than brand influencers.

Winner: Brand advocates.

When Should You Choose Brand Influencers?

If you're looking for a short burst of brand awareness, brand influencers are your ideal go-to.

For example, if you're launching a new product, working with a brand influencer would be your best bet to reaching a significant part of your target market.

When Should You Choose Brand Advocates?

In the long run, investing time and resources towards creating advocates for your brand is more beneficial than paying influencers to push your products.

If you aim to get new customers that stay with your brand and become advocates themselves in the long run, create brand advocates.

How do you know it's time to start a brand advocacy program? If you've had your product in the market long enough to have it tested and trusted, then it's time to bring brand advocates on board.

Final Thoughts

Both brand influencers and brand advocates can give you the social proof your brand needs to grow and stand out in the market.

Should you opt for brand influencers or work towards making your consumers into your brand advocates? You don't have to discard one for the other. But you definitely need to prioritize one over the other.

Therefore, evaluate your brand's position and decide who you need to work with to get to your next level of growth. Whatever you do, make sure you have customer loyalty at the center of your efforts. This way, when you're ready to work with brand advocates, finding one won't be an arduous task.

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