Influencers vs Advocates in B2B Marketing

influencerAccording to Wikipedia – Influencer Marketing is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.

In my own words – Influencers are individuals that write about Avaya but they also write about Cisco and Siemens in social media or otherwise. They are non partial and therefore they write about many firms. Which is why I prefer to have my communications group work with them much like they have always worked with the media.

I draw a hard line between Influencers and Advocates.

An Advocate is an individual we know perhaps via social media that tweets about Avaya or retweets about news coming from Avaya. My social media team deals directly with them and they rarely talk about other firms in our space. They are “advocates” of the Avaya brand.

Over the last year we have really grown our base of Influencers and Advocates. But the group that excites me the most is the Advocates – I want to grow that budding community – I want to offer them special access to news and previews of our latest product. I think growing and focusing on this group is the key to igniting more WOM in your business!

16 comments to Influencers vs Advocates in B2B Marketing

  • There are so many categories of influencers. I agree with you, advocates (I call them “fans”) are especially exciting these days, given the many new ways we can communicate with them and involve them with our brands. There’s so much innovation in WOM right now.

    Good post!

  • @ Barbara – I was calling them fans at one point as well but with Facebook Fans (fans of your facebook page) and Twitter Followers – I thought Advocates covered them both without sounding isolated to just Facebook – just a thought …

  • Ah, I see your point. Yes. ‘Advocates’ does raise it above the social tools.

  • I would use the term evangelist because I am one of them for the Detroit Red Wings. I tweet about other teams I don’t like not very often but my community knows me as the Detroit Red Wings fan and they know I can be count on for any updates on the team or otherwise.

  • Great post, Paul. I totally agree with the focus on advocates; we often spend so much time directly trying to find new customers instead of really supporting the folks that can often have much great impact on our behalf.

    But the influencer side may not be so simple. Perhaps coincidentally, I’ve been doing some research on Influencer Marketing myself lately, although actually in the B2C space. Turns out that, at least in B2C, some new approaches to data mining can identify the “real” influencers on purchase behavior, and the most vocal and connected people are not necessarily the ones that actually influence purchase behavior. Think about the friend you have who knows “everything” about HDTVs, for example. He may not have a huge network, but he might be the guy that you absolutely trust for the right advice. This kind of everyday influence may be just as important, or more, as the folks who are constantly blogging and tweeting about similar products.

    I haven’t dug into the B2B side of this yet, but it’s easy to imagine that similar everyday influencers are very well worth finding and cultivating even if they’re not such pure advocates on your behalf.

  • Paul, excellent post. You capture the essence and dynamics behind influencers and advocates making it easy to understand their importance. Each of these groups are important for engagement and creating awareness.

  • @ Jamei – that’s so cool – If I tell you I like the Rangers and am a partial season ticket holder for the Islanders AAA team (Bridgeport Sound Tigers) will you still read my blog?

  • @Jose – thanks for commenting Jose!

  • @Rob – Your research reminds me (or reaffirms) a theme I recall from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Your Influencers (like your HDTV person) sound a bit like his Mavens – but at the end of the day you are talking about the same sort of activity.

    Would love to see a study on how this plays out for B2B Marketing!

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  • Great distinction Paul!
    Who would you advise a professional service provider with a narrow audience to classify as Influencers?

    Are those who influence purchasing decisions the same as those who influence web presence?

    If they are different, should one reach both in marketing efforts?

    Catherine McQuaid, HUBBA, @SocialMediaHub

  • @Catherine – having been in a prof services provider I would absolutely say the influencers are the Press and Industry Analysts you want to reach (I tend to use a different definition of Influencer than others do). Influencers of purchases are more internal and would be hard to classify using social media. and YES of course you want to reach both with your marketing efforts BUT I would consider completely different tactics. Hope that helps and thanks for commenting.

  • M'aab Alsotohy

    Please can you tell me what are the meaning of advocates, decision makers, buyers and users in the target of B2B? Pls can you as soon as possible!!

  • @M’aab – Simple

    Advocates – have influence on the sale in a positive sense
    Decision Makers – have the budget control or authority to spend on your solution
    Buyers – are a combo of Advocates and Decision makers – anyone who has a stake in the sale
    Users – are the end users of your solution

    hope that helps


  • M'aab Alsotohy

    For Paul Dunay, i just want to thank you so much, you told me exactly what i want :)..

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