Goodbye Influencers, Hello Advocates!

Influencer Marketing vs Advocacy Marketing

It’s almost unconscious knowledge, that the best forms of marketing involve a ‘word-of-mouth’ approach, that comes from trusted and recognized sources. But a popular trend among marketers, to use “Influencers” is now wearing the shine off an entire field of marketing. Mostly because the public is showing an increasing disdain for the types of not-so-cleverly embedded advertising that some so-called Influencers are pedalling.

While ‘Influence Marketing’ is a very sophisticated and effective strategy, it’s the current (and unfortunately self-named) tactic that is actually the growing problem. So rather than worry that an entire class of marketing will get dragged down by just a few bad and artificial scores, we can trust in a more natural process, where such environmental stressors are actually good for spurring new evolution. Ultimately, offering us all a much more responsive, authentic and even participative form of marketing than these lofty Influencers ever could.


While some marketers still see their precious and high-scoring Influencers as a way to leverage pre-aggregated social capital to reach larger audiences using sponsored content, this still just amounts to just a new form of paid advertising to big audience numbers in the end. Except that the audience is being pitched in ways that they know aren’t entirely authentic.

Even old TV and radio shows, at the dawn of embedded advertising, still clearly announced that their messages were coming from their sponsors. Yet somehow the idea of clear disclosure, seems too old-fashioned for this online tactic, and clearly avoids overt methods of earning trust and affinity. Perhaps some marketers just thought they could cleverly cover their tracks online, while forgetting how much more quickly their credibility factor could be destroyed when discovered.

Luckily marketing is a profession that has listening and adaptation baked right into its DNA. So many marketing pros already realize that the rather over-used word ‘influencer” already needs to be either be re-positioned, or just relegated to the past entirely.

It’s really too bad that an entire field of marketing had to brand it’s earliest and most popular tactic with the same name that it branded itself. Perhaps a distinction could be made between the field of Influence Marketing and the growing stigma around “Influencer marketing. Unfortunately the the subtle difference in syntax, makes little difference to most audiences.

Advocates offer word-of-mouth where Influencers failed to impress


So audiences continue to grow more cynical about marketing messages from those notable and high-profile sources, who persist in name-dropping in ways that betray their true motivations. Thankfully, audiences are also savvy enough to recognize sponsored content when they see it, and the entire field of Influence Marketing also has some much better options to explore, than continuing with these rather obvious tactics.

The current opportunity for marketers, is to either backtrack and try to re-vamp public perceptions around the word “Influencers” and their lofty roles as paid spokespeople, or to move forward. Possibly by repositioning the visible and established role of the Influencer as simply a gateway into a bigger, much more evolutionary and participative marketing ecosystem. A updated ecosystem for Influence Marketing where the “influencer” get’s properly re-branded as a component, rather than the focal point of an entire field of marketing.

A system that’s based on merit, and performance, rather than reach and volume. The key is to not just reward the raw traffic of Influencers, but to earn the trust and patronage of audiences who still seek the assurances of a dependable ‘word-of-mouth’ referral, and the comfort of conversations that are based on insight and merit – not audience appeal and social scores.


As it stands, brand “Advocates” are already well-positioned as the next step in a progression towards new culture for social marketing. Advocates move beyond the simplistic “Influencer” model, and continue to gain greater credibility as personally and emotionally invested, actively engaged, well-informed, and authentic voices for the organizations that they transparently support, or sometimes even critique! Of course they may seek and see benefits from their work, but those benefits are much more intangible and trustworthy than the up-front or ad-buy model of rewarding current Influencers. The distinction is that they seek all sorts of personal professional rewards for their professed passions. Not simply payment.


So as the already old-fashioned Influencers continue to slide and succumb to the poor public perceptions that can label and dismiss them as paid shills, Advocates are already on solid public footing. As the independent partners, who are free to speak with clear and personal voices, offer their support and insight, and yet still be rewarded for their valued referrals, in ways that actually improve their social standing, rather than sully it.

To see how readily this evolving new ecosystem can be cultivated to serve the needs of your audiences and customers, simply subscribe for updates.

Better yet…Respond for a concise outline on how to identify, nurture, and reward a healthy and vibrant network of committed Advocates – from out of the seeds of social influence that abound all around us.


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