Influencers and Brand Advocates

August 10, 2012

There are two specific groups with whom you should be cultivating relationships to more effectively reach your target audience: influencers and brand advocates. Part of reaching out to a large audience involves reaching out to key influencers and brand advocates who in turn reach specific groups of people with their established influence, trust, and relationships.


Influencers are people or organizations who have connections, credibility, and sometimes celebrity status, a high follower count, etc. They have a sizable, established, and active audience who is already interested in a certain subject. Examples include journalists, bloggers, thought leaders, experts, authors, celebrities, and well-known professors. Their influence is manifested in the number of retweets, comments, likes, shares, etc. their content gets. They may need incentive to promote your brand for you.


  • 50 Cent tweeted about how he invested in a "no-name penny stock company" and his Twitter followers invested as well.
  • Justin Bieber tweeted that everyone should follow Today show host Matt Lauer - many actually did.
  • In higher education, this may mean reaching out to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (@NACAC)  or Huffington Post College (@HuffPostCollege).

Brand advocates 

Brand advocates are those who have used your product and others who voluntarily market your brand in a positive way without incentive. In the language of higher education this means students, alumni, donors, and faculty, among others. Their recommendations are founded on actual experiences with the department. They build more trust because their communications are targeted to personal connections. They are willing to promote your department with little incentive. Their advocacy and loyalty are valuable to you.

Influencers may promote your department once and reach a lot of people; their influence is tied to their expert or celebrity status and large following (e.g. a teenager may trust a fashion magazine to tell her where to shop for her next outfit). Brand advocates may have less following, but are more loyal and personal; their influence is tied to their relationships or demographic similarities (e.g. a teenager may trust another teenager/friend to suggest the best phone to buy). Often the line is blurred between the two and an individual or organization can be both an influencer and a brand advocate.

Posted By
Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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