Don’t Let The Plethora of Blog Posts Fool You
It’s easy to tout the benefits of brand advocate programs – of which there are many – but there isn’t enough discussion around just how difficult it is to create and sustain one.
What is the difference between a brand ambassadors, brand advocates and just an online community?
Communities are a collection of people passionate about something, who are gathered into a social media community around that passion. It can be an industry, a career field, a product or service or just an idea. Sometimes a marketing tool to build awareness, communities are typically created and supported by a manufacturer, company or association who wants to reach that audience.
Brand ambassadors and brand advocates are often used interchangeably and incorrectly, but they are a difference of paid versus unpaid. Even Wikipedia incorrectly redirects a search for “brand advocate” to the “brand ambassador” page. Whoops.
A brand ambassador is someone who supports an organization or business and builds awareness, loyalty and conversation around its brand. It’s their online spokesperson(s). Often the moderator of a community, that person (or persons) embodies brand attributes and represents the brand online. They are hired by the company and have a paid role to grow the brand.
A brand advocate is similar to a brand ambassador, but typically NOT paid. Brand advocates are most often customers passionate about the brand who support and promote it online because of their loyalty and enthusiasm for the brand.
Many consumer bloggers who do product reviews, for example, are brand ambassadors because they are paid in money or product, not unpaid brand advocates.
Brand advocate programs and brand ambassador programs have much in common, but for the purposes of this article we’ll focus on unpaid brand advocates. I consider brand ambassadors a marketing tactic (advertising) and brand advocates a public relations tactic (awareness).